You don’t speak DoDAF? The Navy feels your pain with its new plain language design concept

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Among the first words out of Don Yeske’s mouth last Friday was “I hate architects.”

Yeske is the chief solutions architect for the Department of Navy’s chief information officer’s office, so right away the standing room only luncheon crowd at the AFCEA NOVA event offered a hearty, if not a little uncomfortable, laugh.

Don Yeske is a cloud solutions architect for the Department of Navy’s chief information officer’s office,

“We work in this obscure language that nobody speaks, called the Defense Department Architecture Framework (DoDAF). It’s great language, there’s nothing wrong with it. We have extra people come on board to a project or program and those people go and bother the people who are the engineers, the testers, the developers, the people turning wrenches, and they say, ‘Hey, I need information. So I can fill out this DoDAF view because we got to go back to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) and get it approved, or we got to go back to the program officer to the milestone decision authority, the chief engineer has to approve these things in order for us to field this thing we’re working on,’” Yeske said. “I have to steal some of your time to go create this product, so that it can be checked by guess who? Another architect whose whole job is to check the homework of the first architect. They will argue, believe me; they will go back and forth with one another because if the second guy doesn’t reject the first guy’s work, once or twice, he’s not doing his job. In the meantime, what’s actually happening? Everybody else is out there, like building stuff, actually testing things and delivering things, hopefully, to the end user who actually needs them. And the architecture really served as a gating function. It really served as a thing that would slow you down, and that would prevent you from eventually delivering that capability. So I hate architects, because that’s what we do.”

And with more than a dozen reference architectures across DoD, ranging from zero trust to the Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) to cybersecurity to the Joint Information Enterprise (JIE), it’s no wonder architects are disliked, ignored and yawned at.

But Yeske is no self-hating architect. In fact, he’s more of a modern-day architect.

Doing development differently

He’s leading an effort within the Department of the Navy CIO to change not only architecture, but, more importantly, how the service delivers capabilities.

“The purpose of an architecture, taking it completely out of the DoD context, is if I’m building a house, it’s the instructions. It’s how you’re supposed to build the house that someone should be looking at. The engineers and the contractors should be looking at those plans and figuring out what to do. And by the way, occasionally saying, ‘Hey, your plans are wrong, change this or we did it differently.’ That’s how that’s supposed to work, but it’s totally not how it works in the Department of the Navy, or in DoD broadly,” Yeske said. “The grand idea that we have in the Department of the Navy is to do things differently. We’re going to push out information that encapsulates a lot of higher order architectures.”

To that end, the DoN CIO published on Sept. 6 version one of the Capstone Design Concept for Information Superiority. To borrow from the old Oldsmobile commercial, “This is not your father’s architecture.”

Yeske said it’s 14 pages long, it will be updated, and, don’t tell anyone, but it’s an architecture.

“We actually want people to pick up the document and read it because a lot of what it says is also said in the DoD zero trust reference architecture now in its second major version; is also said in the JADC reference architecture, now on its third major version; is also said in the cybersecurity reference architecture. There are a dozen or more major architectures that DoD and the Department of the Navy have produced that say all the same things. Nobody read them because nobody speaks DoDAF,” he said. “But we all speak English, at least passably well, and it is a highly technical language. So let’s try it. It’s a crazy different approach. Let’s see if it works.”

The Department of Navy’s CIO’s office spent a year writing the Capstone Design Concept for Information Superiority. It has one overarching goal: “To securely move any information from anywhere to anywhere else.”

Under the main objective, the DoN outlined two primary outcomes that the design concept document is moving toward:

  • Operational resilience: Yeske said this is about how resilient the system or application is? Is it down all the time? Is it approachable? Is it usable? Can people depend on the thing that you’re delivering, even under the worst possible circumstances? And if so, how do you know that? “We’re going to ask everybody, what were your measures? And how are you doing? And how do you know how you’re doing on these lines?”
  • Customer experience: Yeske said this focuses on how easy is it for people to use your application? “That’s a crazy thought, right? The two things everybody’s going to measure and report on are, how easy is your thing to use? Tell me what your customer experience actually is? Tell me what feedback you got from the end users of your thing that told you it worked? Does it work? And how do you know?”

Very simple and straight forward questions that every developer, mission owner and architect should be asking and answering.

Of course, just writing a 14-page, easy to read (hopefully) document is only step one. Yeske said the DoN CIO’s office needs to not just get developers and mission owners to use it, but truly understand the value it brings.

Step one in that effort is delivering services that embody the capstone design document’s goals and objectives.

First enterprise service approved

Yeske said the Information Superiority Advisory Board approved the first enterprise service that exemplifies the architecture concepts just recently.

“The Naval Integrated Modeling Environment hosts model-based systems engineering tools and provides a shared repository for the models to live in, so that people can iteratively, incrementally and collaboratively develop and deliver anything that you can do through a digital engineering approach,” he said. “It’s just a shared set of tools with a shared repository to do that digital engineering work. If we didn’t have that, or something like it as an enterprise service, what would we do? Well, I can tell you what we would do, because it’s what we’re doing now, everybody’s trying to create their own version of that. Everybody’s trying to create their own shared repository. Everybody’s trying to create their own standards around digital engineering.”

Through the Naval Integrated Modeling Environment, the DoN is creating a standard infrastructure with reusable services that is based on the architecture. But, for the most part, developers and users don’t need to know that.

The advisory board’s is likely to approve the Naval Identity Services (NIS) as its next enterprise service.

Yeske said because every application requires identity verification and authorization, it makes sense for the DoN to create that common platform.

“What we do right now is we all implement our own solutions for that. That’s a huge waste. And it’s also preventing us from getting after the next objective,” he said.

In the end, the architecture or Capstone Design Concept for Information Superiority is just a tool to get the Department of the Navy to its end goal, systems that serve the warfighter’s needs, that are secure, agile and rely on standards.

Pretty simple to understand, even for an architect.



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