What is the distinction of what is a System vs. what is not, in Research and Development per FAR 35 and FMR RDT&E Budget Activities?
In order to be classified as a system, an entity must meet the following criteria:
- A system must have a purpose or function.
- In order to accomplish this purpose or function, it must have at least two components or subsystems, each contributing a unique input or function required for the system to accomplish its purpose or function.
- The loss of any one of the components or subsystems will prevent the system from accomplishing its purpose or function.
- The system may provide output to or receive input from a source external to the system. This implies that the system has a definable boundary.
- A subsystem is a set of elements, which is a system in and of itself, and is a member of a larger system.
If an entity does not meet the requirements listed above, it cannot be classified as a system.
A system may function as a sub-system in a larger system. If the larger system is made up of more than one system, it may be referred to as a “System of Systems.”
The word "system" appears only 5 times in FAR Part 35. Once it appears as "major system" which implies an ACAT 1 program. In the other instances, it is used generically.
Technology Readiness Level (TRL) is a subjective model that assists in characterizing the readiness of a specific technology to enable a design to accomplish certain objectives. The concept of maturity implies that if certain steps are taken to progressively demonstrate the readiness of that technology to accomplish design objectives, the less risk there is in proceeding with the development and acquisition of the system relying on that technology.
Budget Activity 4, Advanced Component Development and Prototypes (ACD&P), funds the efforts necessary to evaluate integrated technologies. In order to evaluate and further mature a technology, representative modes or prototype systems in a high fidelity and realistic operating environment are required, and therefore are funded in this budget activity. This step is necessary to expedite technology transition from the laboratory to operational use. Emphasis is on proving technology maturity using hardware and software components, subsystems, and prototype systems prior to integration in major and complex systems and may involve risk reduction initiatives. Program elements in this category involve efforts prior to Milestone B and are referred to as advanced component development activities and include technology demonstrations. Achievement of Technology Readiness Levels 6 and 7 require the development of system prototypes. It is all about the technology, not the hardware or software.
Definitions of TRL 6 and TRL 7 follow:
TRL 6: Technology demonstrated in a system/subsystem, model, or prototype in a relevant environment
TRL 7: Technology demonstrated in a system prototype in an operational environment