Enabling the Digital Transformation of the Workforce: A Digital Engineering Competency Framework

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Baker, Adam
Pepe, Kara
Hutchison, Nicole
Tao, Hoong Yan See
Peak, Russell
Blackburn, Mark
Khan, Rabia
Whitcomb, Clifford
Digital Engineering
digital transformation
competency model
Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE)
acquisition and engineering workforce
Date of Issue
September 14, 2021
This paper describes the goals, approaches, initial results, and preliminary implementation of WRT-1006, a multiphase research task within the Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC). Evidence across the Services and industry has affirmed digital engineering is a critical practice necessary to support acquisition in an environment of increasing global challenges, dynamic threats, rapidly evolving technologies, and increasing life expectancy of our systems currently in operation. Digital engineering updates the systems engineering practices to take full advantage of computational technology, modeling, data analytics, and data sciences. The Department of Defense's vision for digital engineering is to modernize how the Department designs, develops, delivers, operates, and sustains systems, while continuing to practice systems engineering efficiently and effectively. Digital transformation is fundamentally changing the way acquisition and engineering are performed across a wide range of government agencies, industries, and academia. As the Department of Defense (DoD) transitions to digital engineering, there is a need to develop and maintain an acquisition workforce and culture that is literate in model-based engineering, competent in digital engineering models, methods, processes, tools, and understands digital artifacts across the acquisition lifecycle. One of the critical steps that was identified to enable this digital transformation is the development of a competency model that can be used to modernize the workforce. This paper outlines the results after completion of Phase 1 of WRT-1006, which concluded in the initial release of the Digital Engineering Competency Framework (DECF) by SERC, and the initial Phase 2 efforts of implementing the framework as a benchmark for the content of a digital engineering training curriculum. The purpose of the DECF is to provide clear guidance for the DoD acquisition workforce, in particular the engineering acquisition workforce, through clearly defined competencies that illuminate the knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors required for digital engineering professionals. The approach taken to develop the DECF drew from existing competency models in fields neighboring digital engineering and from the feedback of experienced practicing digital engineering community. The initial version of the DECF v.1.0 was released as a key WRT1006 Phase 1 result with confidence in the maturity of the structure and general content. The overarching structure of the DECF v.1.0 consists of competency areas, proficiency levels within the competency, and constituting knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors (KSABs). Now that this benchmark is established, the second phase of our project involves the comparison of the DECF to the existing Defense Acquisition University (DAU) curriculum to determine what elements of such existing curriculum already support the competencies in the model. This is a bidirectional analysis that will both identify gaps in the training curriculum and potentially identify curriculum content that should be incorporated into the competency model. Although this project is specifically applying the DECF to the acquisition process, the model has applications in any area that will implement Digital Engineering initiatives. Furthermore, this framework has additional use cases that will be explored further including hiring for Digital Engineering positions and ensuring the current work force has the necessary skillsets to adequately implement a digital transformation.
Conference paper
The article of record as published may be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/SysCon48628.2021.9447063
Series/Report No
Naval Postgraduate School
NPS Report Number
U.S. Department of Defense through the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (ASD(R&E)) under Contract [HQ0034-19-D-0003
8 p.
Baker, Adam, et al. "Enabling the Digital Transformation of the Workforce: A Digital Engineering Competency Framework." 2021 IEEE International Systems Conference (SysCon). IEEE, 2021.
Distribution Statement
This publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.