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Technology Refreshment (Tech Refresh)

DAU GLOSSARY DEFINITION

Alternate Definition

Tech refresh is the intentional, incremental insertion of newer technology to improve reliability, improve maintainability, reduce cost, and/or add minor performance enhancement, typically in conjunction with depot or field level maintenance. The insertion of such technology into end items as part of maintenance is funded by the operation and maintenance appropriations. However, tech refresh that significantly changes the performance envelope of the end item is considered a modification and, therefore, an investment.

Alternate Definition Source

 DoD 7000.14-R, Financial Management Regulation (FMR)

General Information

Overview

DoD Instruction (DoDI) 5000.02Operation of the Defense Acquisition System, requires Program Managers (PMs) to use tech refresh as a means to "optimize operational readiness" in an affordable manner. Since it is a factor that must be considered during all phases of the lifecycle, tech refresh is a broad subject. During both pre-acquisition and acquisition phases, decisions are made that will determine long-term requirements for tech refresh. Poor technical performance, new requirements, and technological advances may necessitate technology updates or refreshments in legacy systems.

Why Tech Refresh?

The principal drivers behind tech refresh are to:

  • Mitigate risks (supplier, performance, safety, system assurance, etc.)
  • Meet new requirements
  • Improve weapon system performance or availability
  • Reduce resource requirements (including costs)

Strategy

The tech refresh strategy is a program's lifecycle technology management plan to, at a minimum, ensure weapon system performance and to sustain materiel readiness at optimum cost. A strategy for tech refresh represents a program's approach to ensure that over the weapon system lifecycle, technology, integral to a weapon system, will allow for the achievement of:

  • Weapon system performance requirements
  • Planned availability, reliability, mean down time, and ownership cost

For the above to occur, the strategy must also ensure that weapon system technology will be available when required, in the right quantities, and in the right condition to meet production, repair, or modification requirements.

When to Perform Tech Refresh

Tech refresh begins early in the acquisition process with the selection of the technology used in the system, and decisions made during the systems engineering process will determine the ease with which new technology can be inserted and how affordable future modernization efforts will be. Some areas to consider during the systems engineering process include:

COTS items are those that are sold, leased on licensed to the general public; offered by a vendor trying to profit from it; or supported and evolved by the vendor who retains Intellectual Property (IP) rights. COTS items require no unique Government modifications or maintenance over the lifecycle of the product to meet the needs of the procuring agency. 

Potential Benefits

Some of the potential benefits of COTS products include:

  • Reduced research and development costs
  • Smaller logistics footprint
  • Reduced production and maintenance requirements
  • Reduced operations and support costs

COTS Tech Refresh Issues

Some of the tech refresh issues associated with COTS products are:

  • A manufacturer can make changes or discontinue items without notice
  • A manufacturer's change to form and fit may mean -
    • the weapon system will have to be modified
    • the item and the system recertified
    • specifications, technical data, and revisions to the product support plan
  • Discontinuance of an item may mean a different item will have to be procured and installed or that the item will have to be produced and possibly repaired organically
  • A mission change, including functionality, will drive a recertification requirement

Example of Tech Refresh Implementation

The US Navy's Virginia-class submarine program integrated Diminishing Manufacturing Sources & Material Shortages (DMSMS) management into the construction program early in the design/build process. To ensure consistency and repeatability of results, the program office established a tech refresh Integrated Product Team (IPT), formalized a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), developed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)  with the Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) for the advanced procurement of spares, and established a budget. As a result, the program resolved more than 1,260 obsolescence issues and reaped more than $159 million of documented cost avoidance by being proactive since inception.

Technology insertion can be a powerful way to address DMSMS. It integrates mature technologies with requirements and logistics planning in order to expand system capability as well as increase readiness, reduce life-cycle costs, and reduce the logistics footprint. A program can avoid significant costs by determining optimum technology insertion dates. For example, a redesign to upgrade a product should simultaneously seek to eliminate obsolete or near obsolete parts (as identified via a health assessment), because it is more cost-effective to resolve a DMSMS issue simultaneously, rather than as a standalone, out-of-cycle redesign. A good source of information on DMSMS is SD-22, the DMSMS Guidebook.