Bernard F. Collins II, senior advisor for the Director of Science and Technology in the Acquisition, Technology and Facilities Directorate for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, recently spoke with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) about his work evaluating the space industrial base and improving satellite acquisition through the use of standardization.
The following is part three of a three part interview. Part two can be found here.
ANSI: How do you think the government could increase its effective use of standards, and in what areas?
BC: The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-119 states that all federal agencies use voluntary consensus standards in lieu of government-unique standards in their procurement and regulatory activities. The government should establish an environment whereby industry benefits from the use of standards and a safe haven where industry can assemble and develop standards. Standards are known to increase operational efficiencies and adaptability while reducing costs. Government RFPs should take a long term view and should seek solutions which emphasize these attributes. Commercial operators are very influential in the space industry and should also take a long term view. Although the U.S. government spends more money in the satellite industry, commercial operators buy almost twice as many satellites. Their influence is increasing, especially as the government becomes increasing reliant on commercial services for geostationary communications and electro-optical imaging. Satellite operators, jointly with the government, should collaborate to support interoperability standards.
ANSI: How do you think ANSI can help all of these organizations better understand the value of standards and increase their reliance on them?
BC: ANSI has impressive resources for standards development and conformity assessment. Your outreach and educational programs show the value of standards in a variety of industries and provide useful guidelines for establishing a standards effort. Publishing results from market modeling that quantifies the potential gains a specific sector could realize, should they standardize interfaces, would be useful in compelling the government and industry to aggressively pursue standards initiatives. Industry would more readily join a standards initiative if the business case were relevant and apparent.
ANSI: You've mentioned the importance of collaboration and industry consensus in standards development. What do you think are the keys to the most broadly effective standards development?
BC: Keys to an effective standards development effort include a safe haven for the discussion and engagement by those in the industry who will implement the standard. The safe haven needs to be provided by the operators, both commercial and government. Trade associations such as the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and the Satellite Industry Association (SIA) serve as the voice of the industry and can help. Engagement across the industry, to include the market leaders and the niche players, will ensure the standards created are broadly employed to create the desired economies of scale. While industry is engaging in technical discourse, the assistance of a standards development organization (SDO) is necessary to establish and conduct the administrative rhythm of the process.
ANSI: What do you see as the benefits to individual companies that get involved in standards development?
BC: The idea of creating interoperability in the space industry is not new and it is not going way. Collaborating on standards will enable companies to leverage each other's investments and both influence and predict the future direction of the industry. If they aren't involved, they will be left behind as the collaborators learn from one another and develop more innovative, cost-effective capabilities to deliver to their customers. Because of IT available today and the investments of niche players, interoperability is inevitable. Each company in the space sector will evaluate the Space Universal Modular Architecture (SUMO) initiative and decide whether they should lead or influence the standards work, or wait on the sidelines and adopt or adapt the resulting standards. The advantage of leading or influencing the stands work is to ensure that that resulting standard encourages innovation and future growth. Leading and influencing the standard also can give a supplier quicker time-to-market and minimize disruption the resulting standard may have on one's component design and production line. The advantage of waiting and then adapting or adopting standards is that the company will not have to invest resources up front to investigate, analyze, and then draft the standards.
ANSI: Is there anything else you think is important for business, industry, and/or government to know about the power of standardization, that they may not already seem to realize?
BC: Conducting missions from space is expensive and capital intensive. New capabilities such as the "atmospheric" satellite (a high-flying, long-dwell, solar-powered UAV) and cube satellites are being developed and will be disruptive to the status quo. Ground-based solutions will continue to improve and become more pervasive. The model for space acquisition needs to evolve. As the customer base becomes attracted to alternate methods of accomplishing their missions, fewer and fewer will be left to carry the burden of the space infrastructure. To amortize the costs, more and more missions will increasingly require global agreements and components from an international supply base. The satellite operators already conduct business globally, buying and selling somewhat independent of national boundaries. Interoperability standards will increase the market place for suppliers, streamline satellite integration, and improve the operators' bottom line.
ANSI: Mr. Collins, thank you so very much for your time, for so eloquently speaking about the vital importance of standardization, and for supporting the Standards Boost Business campaign.