Image Credit: DARPA

Posted: February 10, 2016 | By: Eric Treadwell

Department of Defense (DoD) procurement references a large number of military-unique specifications, standards, and handbooks (standardization documents).  Project proposals and contracts with the DoD reference these standardization documents, often down to the sub-paragraph level.  The process of finding only those paragraphs which apply to a given project, and listing them, is called “tailoring” and consumes considerable engineering time.  Unfortunately, current instructions for military standardization documents (MIL-STD-961/962/963) offer neither guidance nor direction on this “tailoring” process.  A process is needed that will extract only the applicable references for any project description.  Using the proposed “Dynamic Tailoring” method, a Subject Matter Expert (SME) can easily write this needed “tailoring” process.  Dynamic Tailoring allows rapid, accurate, and precise retrieval of information contained in standardization documents.  Dynamic Tailoring also removes language barriers introduced by selection of keywords, use of jargon, or unfamiliar terminology. Further, SME knowledge is preserved and made available in the form of the Dynamic Tailoring algorithm.


Leafing through hundreds of pages of a requirements document in order to find the paragraph applicable to the task at hand is the lot of technical professionals. Searching in a Portable Document Format (PDF) (or other format), or worse yet, paging through a scanned document, does not unlock the promises of the information age. At best, if the document is used regularly, the user may have a collection of tags and bookmarks, which last until the document is updated. It is estimated that 30 percent to 50 percent of an engineer’s time is spent searching for and validating information1.

Dynamic Tailoring is a new method of sorting information in standardization documents and preparing it to be retrieved on demand (a patent is in process). The current approach is to trawl through an information set to find relevant information. The problem is that the person using the standardization document rarely thinks the same way as the SME. Using just one example, the expert and the casual user have very different terminology. For example: are we discussing bulldozers or track-loaders or wheel dozers? Even given a defined collection, a search engine relies on a limited set of keywords (or other tagging methods) to sift through data and return matching results. Looking beyond this, Dynamic Tailoring starts with the defined collection of directly and tangentially related data and sorts it in a manner relevant to answer all possible user queries. The question comes last: Search…backwards.

The path to the creation of this method was about as direct as a keyword search. The author was tasked to rewrite MIL-HDBK-1791, “Designing for Internal Aerial Delivery in Fixed Wing Aircraft,” and update it to MIL-STD-1791A. MIL-STD-1791 communicates design requirements for aircraft physical and operational limits to designers and purchasers of new or modified equipment intended for transport via the United States Air Force’s cargo aircraft. The standard must cover every conceivable type of cargo from any US government user: trucks, tanks, planes, helicopters, boats, satellites, and humanitarian cargo such as Keiko, the killer whale. In addition, the document contains guidance and lessons learned.

The process of corralling the wide-ranging information and fitting it to the nearly unlimited items which can be transported provided a challenge. Beyond just updating the document, the author developed Dynamic Tailoring to more effectively sort through the myriad requirements. The updated document was reorganized with a new structure for its content based on the constraints of Dynamic Tailoring. Finally, a new computer-based interface was implemented to facilitate Dynamic Tailoring.


Figure 1: Schematic of MIL-STD-1791A Requirements

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