The Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC), a University-Affiliated Research Center (UARC) of the US Department of Defense, leverages the research and expertise of faculty, staff, and student researchers from more than 20 collaborating universities throughout the United States. SERC is unprecedented in the depth and breadth of its reach, leadership, and citizenship in Systems Engineering. Led by Stevens Institute of Technology and principal collaborator, University of Southern California (USC), the SERC has engaged more than 450 researchers since its founding in 2008 – a community of broad experience, deep knowledge and diverse interests. SERC researchers have worked across many domains and industries, including finance, telecommunications, computing, transportation, in addition to defense, enabling them to bring broad perspectives to their research.
Our ability to successfully build adaptive, resilient and secure complex defense systems is increasingly constrained by how well those responsible for conceiving, developing, manufacturing, and operating those systems can work together effectively. Such systems require cross-disciplinary teams who work together to understand what is needed and develop cost effective solutions. Systems engineers are responsible for integrating disciplines, balancing conflicting characteristics, and affordably delivering capabilities. Systems engineers have been constrained, however, by the limitations of their discipline, especially in four areas:
Enterprises and Systems of Systems: We lack the foundational SE principles, methods, processes, and tools to enable the DoD to architect, design, analyze, monitor and evolve complex enterprises and systems of systems to provide the DoD with an overwhelming competitive advantage over its current and future adversaries.
Trusted Systems: We need to achieve much higher levels of system trust by applying the systems approach to achieving system assurance and trust for the increasingly complex, dynamic, cyber-physical-human net-centric systems and systems of systems of the future.
Systems Engineering and Management Transformation: We lack the systems engineering and management methods, processes, tools and practices to enable rapid, concurrent, flexible, scalable definition and analysis of the increasingly complex, dynamic, multi-stakeholder, cyber-physical-human DoD systems and systems of systems of the future.
Human Capital Development: We need to dramatically accelerate the professional development of highly capable systems engineers and technical leaders in DoD and the defense industrial base and determine how to sustainably implement those findings.
The discipline of system engineering must evolve to meet these challenges through sustained strategically focused research and effective transition of that research to practice.
The SERC was formed in 2008 to meet these challenges. The SERC has developed a strong research portfolio around the four areas identified above, drawing on the best minds across the nation. Over the six years since it was formed, the SERC has developed and disseminated research that is in use by all DoD services, published in over 100 papers and books, and is integrated into the courses of dozens of universities, affecting how systems engineering is performed around the nation and beyond. The SERC is a lean organization, with only a handful of full-time employees. Research is performed by faculty across its more than 20 collaborating universities, with support of research staff and students. A single project may draw on researchers from several universities, each of whom contributes to well-defined research goals achieved over multiple years. Since inception, DoD has funded nearly forty million dollars in research. Currently, there are more than 20 active research projects whose total past, current, and projected funding is well over twenty million dollars. A five year technical plan, approved in 2013 by the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, defines the SERC research portfolio, which is reviewed annually to respond to changing DoD needs and technological opportunities
The SERC will be the primary engine for the US government in SE research. In doing so, the SERC will:
• Catalyze community growth among SE researchers and end users by enabling collaboration among many SE research organizations
• Accelerate SE competency development through rapid transfer of its research to educators and practitioners
• Transform SE practice throughout the government by creating innovative methods, processes, and tools that address critical challenges to meet mission outcomes.
The SERC will become the networked national resource to further systems research and its impact on issues of national and global significance.
The SERC core competencies address advanced research, innovative methods, processes, tools, and technology, and concept prototype and development in the following areas:
• Systems Engineering (SE) methods, processes, and tools (MPTs) to enable integrated development and management of requirements, design, interfaces, verification and validation, technical baselines, and risk
• Exploration of new ways of linking requirements to design
• SE MPTs to fully leverage modeling and simulation advances including the use of formal languages (e.g., XML, SAML) and modeling techniques (e.g., UML, SysML) to capture and document requirements along with other program artifacts and to support design trade studies
• Linkage of technical baselines to architectures
• Application of SE to acquisition of services
The SERC addresses systems architecting, complex systems theory, systems thinking, systems science, knowledge management, and software engineering to perform research to advance the design and development of complex systems across all DoD domains, including:
• System and open systems architecture practices and systems analysis
• Systems Engineering in complex systems of systems and family of systems environments
• Enterprise systems engineering
• Software-unique extensions and modern software development techniques and how they relate to SE
• Flexible SE environments to support complex software systems and commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware and software integration
• Knowledge management SE repositories
• Undergraduate/graduate SE education needs
• Leverage developments in open systems standards, organizational theory, program management, systems engineering management, and information technology to provide needed integration of program / technical management MPTs including:
• Integrating technical performance measures (TPM) with earned value management (EVM)
• Role of maturity reviews in SE planning – technology, manufacturing, and software, and their integration
• Systems engineering team structures, communication mechanisms, internal and external collaboration, and other mechanisms for continuous process improvement
• Improved SE information sharing across the enterprise, program, and engineering team using technologies such as wikis, blogs, portals, search engines, etc.
• Rationale and way ahead for standards harmonization
• Consideration of tool sets throughout the system life cycle
• Analyzing SE costs, cost accounts, and return on investment (ROI)
• SE metrics and use of leading indicators to track/forecast program success
Sponsoring SERC Research
Any US government organization can sponsor SERC research to address its systems engineering research needs. To find out details of how to do so, the organization should contact: osd.atl.asd-re.se(at)mail(dot)mil
Systems Engineering Research Center
Located at Stevens Institute of Technology
1 Castle Point on Hudson
Hoboken, NJ 07030
The Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC) is the only Department of Defense (DoD) University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) focused on Systems Engineering research in the United States.
The SERC is a University Affiliated Research Center (UARC). UARCs are strategic United States Department of Defense (DoD) research centers associated with one or more universities. UARCs were established to ensure defense critical engineering and technology capabilities are maintained and advanced. Collaboration with university educational and research resources is essential to their mission. These not- for-profit organizations maintain long-term strategic relationships with their DoD sponsors and operate in the public interest, free from real or perceived conflicts of interest.
Although UARCs receive sole source funding, they may also, in some circumstances, compete for science and technology work. There are currently 14 DoD UARCs.
Characteristics of the UARC-DoD Relationship:
• Responsiveness to evolving requirements
• Comprehensive knowledge of sponsor requirements and problems
• Broad access to information, including proprietary data
• Broad corporate knowledge
• Independence and objectivity
• Quick response capability
• Current operational experience
• Freedom from real and/or perceived conflicts of interest
The mission of the Systems Engineering Research Center is to enhance and enable the Department of Defense’s (DoD) capability in Systems Engineering for the successful development, integration, testing and sustainability of complex defense systems, services and enterprises.
The Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Engineering is the SERC’s primary sponsor.
The SERC operates as the systems engineering research engine for the DoD. The SERC conducts research that creates, validates and transitions methods, and processes and tools that support effective systems engineering practice in the acquisition of weapons platforms, major defense systems, systems of systems, network-centric systems, and enterprise systems.
In 2008 Stevens Institute of Technology was awarded a 10 USC 2304(c)(3) (B) five-year IDIQ task order contract. In 2013 DoD issued another five-year IDIQ task order contract, renewing Stevens’ role leading the SERC. The Washington Headquarters Service manages the contract for DoD.
The Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Engineering operates a government Program Management Office to oversee the SERC. The Program Management Office provides Technical Task Orders to which the SERC responds.
One of the four major areas of the SERC research portfolio is Human Capital Development. Among other things, prior and current SERC research projects in this area have created ways to accelerate the education of systems engineers and other technical leaders, developed recommendations on what to teach in graduate SE programs, and revamped undergraduate senior design projects to integrate systems engineering into the education of all engineers. Such research is applied in SERC Collaborator universities and more broadly in other degree-granting institutions and in training organizations such as Defense Acquisition University and the defense industrial base. Additionally, the results of the entire SERC research portfolio are integrated into courses taught by Collaborators and other degree-granting universities.
SERC is a collaborative research center comprised of 22 collaborator schools led by Stevens Institute of Technology. Collectively, the SERC collaborators are unparalleled in the depth and breath, leadership and citizenship in Systems Engineering research. The current SERC Collaborators are:
• Stevens Institute of Technology
• University of Southern California
• Air Force Institute of Technology
• Auburn University
• Carnegie Mellon University
• Georgetown University
• Georgia Institute of Technology
• Massachusetts Institute of Technology
• Missouri University of Science and Technology
• Naval Postgraduate School
• North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
• Pennsylvania State University
• Purdue University (Newest SERC collaborator)
• Southern Methodist University
• Texas A&M University
• Texas Tech University
• University of Alabama in Huntsville
• University of California at San Diego
• University of Maryland
• University of Massachusetts at Amherst
• University of Virginia
• Wayne State University