The lessons learned from TBMCS can be directly applied to other software-intensive programs that require the integration of vast numbers of third-party products with government-furnished equipment (GFE), such as hardware and communications. The key lesson is that there is no substitute for a well-defined systems engineering process. In the case of TBMCS, external influences drove a relaxation of discipline and rigor in the systems engineering process. In fact, the need for rigor and discipline in the process is even greater when a program lacks sufficient detail in the requirements, architecture, and system design, or when the contractor and government underestimate the complexity of software reuse and third-party integration. This was demonstrated by TBMCS in delivering the initial system (V1.0.1) in 2000, five years after contract award.
The acquisition strategy of giving the contractor total system performance responsibility when over 90% of the program content is government-furnished equipment is fundamentally flawed. The contractor cannot be held accountable for performance if the contractor does not control all of the system components that affect performance. Perhaps the lack of formal requirements made the approach used – defining performance parameters as goals instead of requirements – the only possible approach in this particular case, but it should certainly not be adopted by other programs as a standard.
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The Theater Battle Management Core System (TBMCS) is an integrated air command and control (C2) system that performs standardized, secure, automated air battle planning and execution management for Air Force, multi-service, and allied commanders in theaters of operation worldwide. TBMCS provides the means to plan, direct, and control all theater air operations and to coordinate with land, maritime, and special operations elements. It is deployed at C2 nodes at national, force and wing/unit-level elements. TBMCS operates in support of planners and decision makers at, and below, the level of Joint Force Air Component Commander. The system is modular and scalable for air, land, or sea transport and the deployed configurations can be tailored to meet a particular contingency.