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Abstract

Problems of increasing complexity are facing decision makers within government and industry, and the key characteristic of these problems is that they are of system-of-systems type. With multiple, heterogeneous, distributed systems involved (including policies and economies as well as technologies), effective analysis for decision-support quickly becomes unmanageable within the “stovepipe” context that still characterizes many organizations in the research and development community. There is not a process/field of study in place that can enable us to systematically solve these types of problems, exemplified by the Next Generation Transportation System. While indeed numerous tools are available to help, they cannot be used effectively because the people who build and understand the tools all speak different languages. Much confusion still remains about words and phrases for system-of-systems type problems, let alone the best modeling approaches for dealing with them. While pockets of organizational restructuring may address this challenge for particular projects, there is a lack of systematic thinking at the basic level about how to address the challenges. This paper recommends that intellectual, financial, and institutional resources be invested for the purpose of initiating and nurturing a field of study that will enable us to better address this important type of problem. The future of transportation serves as a motivating example of a multidomain, system-of-systems problem of critical importance to the nation and in need of effective decision-support. The analogy of creating better maps and “navigation aids” for decision makers will be employed, emphasizing that, when navigating a minefield, knowing where not to go is the key factor in successfully traversing the terrain (i.e., making wise decisions).