Mastering DODAF Will Reap Dividends

Developers should master the Department of Defense's Architecture Framework now as a platform for future systems integration.

When seeking an irresistible force that can shift the immovable object of IT inertia, two candidates come to mind—and only one of them is an Arkansas-based retail chain. "The Wal-Mart Effect" may get the headlines in trendy business magazines, but bigger still is the U.S. Department of Defense—with 3 million uniformed and civilian employees compared with Wal-Marts 1.5 million, and a fiscal 2005 budget of just over $400 billion compared with Wal-Marts annual sales of somewhat more than $250 billion.

When the DOD tells its IT and other systems suppliers to follow specific rules in defining, designing and documenting products and services, its not just a good idea; in many cases, its the law.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read about the DODs RFID plans.

The DOD possesses immense direct buying power, and its standards tend to ripple throughout the development and procurement processes of other industry sectors. This should motivate enterprise IT professionals to stay abreast of accelerating trends such as the spreading adoption of DODAF (Department of Defense Architecture Framework) as the basis for large systems development and—especially—complex systems integration.

Anyone hoping to do future business with the DOD is likely to encounter epic prose such as this requirement from an "Instructions to Offerors" document issued last year by a U.S. Air Force project. The document reads: "Provide DoD Architecture Framework (DoDAF)-based architectural views, specifically Operational Views 1 & 2 and Overall Systems View."

Companies would be well-advised to know what this means and where to find the tools that can help an organization comply with such a demand—or perhaps assist a customer in doing so.

Released in version 1.0 in October 2003, DODAF supplanted the former framework known as C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance).

The first formal statement of DODAF was followed last February by the release of two more informative volumes, the 87-page "Definitions and Guidelines" and the 254-page "Product Descriptions," put forth by the DODAF Working Group.

Immediately, some clarification may be useful. As used in the title of DODAF Volume II, "product" means not something thats bought from an IT vendor but, rather, a piece of graphics, text or tabular data that describes the elements of an architecture or their relationships.

DODAF categorizes the various products in terms of their support for three views: the Operational view, which the DODAF manuals describe with the tag line "What needs to be accomplished and who does it"; the Systems view, which "Relates systems and characteristics to operational needs"; and the Technical Standards view, which "Prescribes standards and conventions."

The highest-level DODAF product, the "Overview and Summary Information," or "AV-1" deliverable, takes its name from its relevance to "All views." Its immediate subordinates are OV-1, the High-Level Operational Concept Graphic; SV-1, the Systems Interface Description; and TV-1, the Technical Standards Profile.

Next page: Framework has its benefits.