MIL recently renamed and recommissioned its C4IS Sector to reflect its expanded service line and future technical direction. To get a glimpse inside MIL’s new Rapid Engineering, Prototyping, and Systems Integration Sector (REPS), we had the opportunity to discuss the Sector’s name change and enhanced capabilities with REPS Engineering Manager, Lewis Collier.
Q: MIL recently announced the renaming of the C4IS Sector to “REPS.” Why REPS?
First, just to clear up any confusion, the new name does not mean that we don’t do systems integration anymore; the “REPS” call sign stands for rapid engineering, prototyping, and systems integration. Our sector’s new moniker signifies the addition of responsive engineering and prototyping to our existing full life-cycle C5ISR systems engineering and integration solutions, and obviously C5ISRSEISREPSI was too long!
“REPS” means our sector will build on its reputation of delivering highly esteemed technical solutions and grow our offerings and industry expertise to include new rapid capabilities development.
Q: Can you explain how rapid engineering and prototyping differs from more traditional engineering processes?
The main transformation is our responsiveness in delivering new capabilities to the end user. And, a major factor in this speed-up is derived from a significant reduction of the waterfall and stove-pipe practices of traditional processes. Rapid capability delivery utilizes cross-functional team skills to reduce traditional artifacts and information-segmentation by relying on the team members’ multifaceted capabilities; a wider range of knowledge and experiences within the development team means more time constructing and less time explaining what to build. This development philosophy enables the ability to tailor the amount of documentation that is needed to reach the same development goal while still providing for life-cycle support.
Q: In practical terms, what will the new REPS group do that the previous Sector didn’t, and how will the changes impact you and other members of the team?
The REPS team will do more development events in addition to its standard integration activities. This means that we will probably write some software, design some circuits, and build some hardware in addition to our traditional integration services. REPS personnel have the skills and training to do these development activities, we just haven’t focused on these services in the past, now we will. So, long story short, we all will get to do more of the things that we, as engineering professionals, like to do, which is to develop more complex solutions, since we do not have to rely on just integration of “store-bought” parts to deliver capabilities.
Q: So, what’s the payoff for REPS clients? Will they save resources (time or money), be able to try out or test new ideas or technologies, etc.? In short, what’s in it for MIL’s customers?
The short answer to all the above questions is yes! REPS will come about as close as possible to antiquating the old adage “You can have it fast, cheap, and good; pick any two.” By streamlining the processes, and without giving up any of the quality checks mandated by our ISO-9001 quality management system, customers can get fully-formed solutions or they can get less rugged systems to test concepts, both faster and, potentially, for less money. In the end, REPS offers more choices to our customers, and to the end users, so they can test new capabilities quickly and also deploy those capabilities in a timely fashion as well.
Q: Will MIL need to recruit for different skillsets to meet the expanded REPS service line? If so, what kind of employees will the Company be hiring?
First and foremost, we’ll be allowing our current staff, who already understand our technology domains, to use dormant talents and we will be encouraging them to learn new skills as well, in order to fuel the new rapid capability engineering, prototyping, and integration efforts. As we seek new team members, MIL will still pursue personnel with the same engineering, science, and information technology skills as we have in the past since these qualities form the basis for successful execution of rapid engineering, prototyping, and system-integration efforts. But we’ll be adding an extra emphasis in looking for applicants who possess cross-functional capabilities.
Q: And finally, anything you want to add to help us understand the new REPS team and its mission?
REPS is much more than just what many understand rapid prototyping to be, which is creating parts with a 3-D printer. Yes, we do that, but that is only one aspect of our expanding cross-functional capabilities.
We are continuing our focus on systems related to communications and information processing but now, for example, we’ll be delivering solutions such as merging audio-visual processing with tactical communications and network technologies to create solutions such as radio infrastructures that are agnostic to the video compression techniques used by disparate radio manufacturers, or, we’ll combine our software definable radio expertise with sensor knowledge and cybersecurity to provide hack-hardened wireless sensor device networks. By applying and growing our cross-domain talents, REPS will continue as leading providers of technological solutions.
Since May 2018, Lewis has shared his wide-ranging technical expertise and senior-level leadership at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), supporting MIL’s work with both the Ship and Air Integrated Warfare (SAIW) and Special Communications Mission Solutions (SCMS) Divisions. Before joining MIL, Lewis developed sonobuoy technology and biometrics identification solutions for NAWCAD and the US Army Rapid Equipping Forces. Lewis also owned and operated a company that developed custom video processing systems for Army, Navy, and Marine Corps platforms. Lewis brings extensive education and training to his work for SAIW and SCMS, including a Ph.D. in Computer Science, a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering, and bachelor’s in Physics and Math.