R&D documents required improvement
Every year, the Department of Defense spends tens of billions of dollars on Research and Development. These R&D funds are used for everything from Basic Research - which aims to increase knowledge in fundamental disciplines like physics, engineering, and life sciences - to Advanced Components Development and Prototypes. One similarity across all DoD Research is the use of specific documents for Budget Requests. Departments submit funding requests in the form of “R2” exhibits, which provide summary funding information, project descriptions, and budget justifications for each R&D project. These Exhibits are organized by the DoD Comptroller and presented to Congress for review.
For years, there was little consistency in the R2 documents submitted to the DoD Comptroller and Congress. Different departments had wide latitude in interpreting the regulations and budget submission guidelines. Furthermore, financial data was not subject to validation checks for input errors or mathematical inconsistencies. Required data could be omitted, entered into the wrong fields, or in formats that were not easily readable. These errors and inconsistencies cost key stakeholders, including the United States Congress, time and money.
Developing a standardized, validated solution
The Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) is the DoD’s repository for research and engineering information. DTIC tasked MassLight with developing a standardized electronic R2 format to ensure data completeness and accuracy. The R2 Project made existing fields standardized, added input validation with a set of defined business rules, and created a user-friendly web application for agencies and departments to use in creating the forms. The User Interfaces were modular - allowing different services and agencies to access forms that were customized to their needs. This allowed differentiated and customized user experience while guaranteeing consistency in the final reports. An Administrator interface was also incorporated for collaboration and analytics.
The R2 project was developed on Amazon Cloud Services. This allowed all the benefits of cloud architecture including speed, accessibility, reliability, scalability, and cost efficiencies. AWS’s GovCloud Region ensured compliance with DoD security and reliability standards. AWS EC2 was leveraged for cloud computing, and its use saved hundreds of man-hours that would otherwise be spent upgrading, patching, and maintaining on-premise servers.
Implementing and extending the solution
The R2 project was a resounding success. The XML format allowed for easy transmission, extraction, transformation, and loading of the budget request data into a variety of previously unanticipated and novel analysis processes. These supported mission and financial analysis tools as well as a variety of presentation formats by a wide audience. Furthermore, this data structure simplified the user experience for the submitters by providing a logical and unified set of options for data input. The R2 project was so successful that DTIC contracted MassLight to replicate the process for another type of form - “P40” procurement forms. MassLight continues to develop and maintain both forms, now under a project called the Comptroller XML Exhibits, or CXE.
The development architecture on the AWS GovCloud and use of key AWS services provided maximum reliability, scalability, workflow and cost efficiencies. This combination of design and architecture continues to support stakeholders within the Department of Defense and the broader US-supported research community.