Defense agencies develop data-sharing standard

The Defense Department and defense agencies from several other countries have developed a standard for documenting and sharing configuration information about large systems.

Military services and contractors can use the standard to maintain up-to-date descriptions of how large items are configured, such as weapons systems. The Product Life Cycle Support Technical Committee of the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards developed the standard, known as the PLCS ISO Standard.

"We would be able to start with a configured item and track how it is maintained through life. This is something we've never been able to do automatically before," said Howard Mason, co-chairman of the technical committee and an engineering information standards manager for BAE Systems PLC of Farnborough, U.K. "The big issue here is being able to maintain that information across the industry-government divide for contractual logistic support operations."

Government members of the committee include the Defense Information Systems Agency, British Ministry of Defence, Norwegian Defence Logistics Organisation and Swedish Defence Materiel Administration.

The committee also includes defense contractors such as BAE, Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and ManTech International Corp. of Fairfax, Va.

"One of the biggest challenges for owners and maintainers of complex, high-value assets is keeping all of the information that describes the product and its associated support environment aligned with the actual product configuration as it changes throughout its operating life," Jerry Smith, co-chairman and a DISA computer scientist, said in a statement.

The committee built the new standard on ISO 10303 Application Protocol 239. Known as STEP, the internationally recognized standard is widely used by defense contractors as a kind of blueprint to aid in the design and manufacture of complex systems, though it has not been used to document the configuration of individual units of any particular system.

The committee's work, Mason said, "extends STEP into the full lifecycle."

The committee sent 140 modules, or building blocks, to the ISO for final publication as ISO specifications, he said. Mason expects the standards organization will make the modules available on the ISO Web site within the next few days.

The modules are "the building blocks for an information backbone," Mason said. "In the context of DOD, it would hold all the information you would need to associate with a particular unique identification number."

Joab Jackson writes for Government Computer News magazine.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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