Do you remember CALS?

I was talking to someone the other day about standards for exchanging electronic product data, and then I realized I had forgotten something important that was also very personal to me.

Perhaps you can help refresh my memory and identify the DoD program that came after CALS.

Years ago, there were no real standards for exchanging electronic design data.  CAD/CAM was still in its infancy and software packages like AD-2000 were just being demonstrated.  As time went on, a number of CAD vendors arose — each with their own unique file format.  But in most companies, the paper drawing was still considered the “official design record”.

The US government became increasingly concerned with exchanging design data because they often wound up paying their suppliers multiple times for the same information, which increased their costs.  As an example, if a new submarine hull was built by Newport News Shipbuilding (in Virginia), the major refit for that hull was often done in a year or two by Electric Boat (in Connecticut).   And since each company needed proper documentation to perform their work and the previous documentation belonged to the other company, they would reproduce the design artifacts themselves — and charge the government accordingly.

Into this situation came the NASA IPAD (Integrated Programs for Aerospace-vehicle Design) Program Office.  The IPAD Program was partially funded by the US Navy and included over 100 key leaders from computer suppliers, software providers, aerospace companies, government and military agencies, educational institutions, and consulting firms.   The goal was establish standards for exchanging electronic design data among the various suppliers that NASA planned to use in the creation of its next generation space vehicles.   Standards of this type would then allow NASA to drive downs its costs, by eliminating the need to duplicate design artifacts.   The IPAD Program also leveraged a significant amount of work that was being done during the same time-frame by the US Air Force ICAM (Integrated Computer-Aided Manufacturing) program.  A summary of the IPAD program can be found here, although it was published well after the program was underway.  (For those interested in more information about IPAD, I suggest the NASA Technical Reports Server at this link.)

Eventually, as with most government programs, the scope of the IPAD “solution” (or perhaps “problem”) was extended to other government agencies, who hoped to leverage these ideas and reduce their costs.

The follow-on program was initially known as CALS (Computer-aided Acquisition and Logistics Support), but was renamed over time to “Continuous Acquisition and Life-cycle Support”   (See Wikipedia for a short article or this NASA reference.)   Many of the same people from IPAD were active in the CALS program, which was eventually expanded to cover all of the US Department of Defense (DoD).

Many of today’s standards for exchanging digital design data, such as IGES, STEP and countless ISO standards, owe much of their history to the IPAD and CALS efforts.  In addition, the entire PDM (product data management) and PLM (product lifecycle management) industry owes much of its existence to the IPAD program and their efforts to create the “Relational Information Manager” (or RIM), and the IPAD Information Processor (IPIP) for managing and sharing digital design artifacts.

I was very fortunate in that Robert Fulton (R.E. Fulton), one of the key visionaries behind this program and the NASA Program Manager, was also my father.  So I literally learned about “engineering data management” at the dinner table.

Which brings us to my question…   The CALS program eventually evolved into another DoD program which specified that the US government “owned” the digital data for the products they had paid to have designed and that all data had to be submitted in specific digital formats before the supplier would be paid.

My question is — What was this program that came after CALS called?


5 Responses to Do you remember CALS?

  1. John Brush says:

    I know RAMP came out around that time from the NAVY. It was the Rapid Aquisition of Manufactured Parts. The concept was a Navy vessel could go into any number of shipyards around the world and, because it carried its model database on board, it should be able to hand over the digital definition to the shipyard and the part could be purchased or manufactered. In concept this would save the NAVY millions in time and unique manufacturing facility, as you reference above.

    This was further proven out in 1998 with a DARPA “proof of concept” project I was involved in using STEP 14 (?) and demonstrating the ability to transfer data from one system to another (i.e. Calma to Intergraph or even the Newport News self developed application.) It was a successful and great project.

    John B

  2. David Fulton says:

    I’ve talked recently to a number of people who were once (and in some cases, still are) affiliated with CALS and the general consensus is that CITIS (Contractor Integrated Technical Information Service) is the program most consider to be the one that “came next after CALS”.

    This program included the two provisions I had remembered – (a) DoD owned the data and (b) Submitting data electronically to the DoD was a requirement for a contractor (i.e., supplier) to get paid.

    Curiously enough, many of the most recent (and most expensive) weapons programs allow the contractor to maintain ownership of the data and required that only a minimal subset of the data be submitted to the DoD. As a result, some of these contractors are well positioned to perform whatever ongoing maintenance on these weapons systems that they deem necessary at whatever rate they think is appropriate with only minimal oversight from DoD. And since they own the data, it is nearly impossible for anyone else to bid competitively for this work.

    Ah, your tax dollars at work…

    It’s also interesting to note that CALS has been widely adopted, especially by European companies, as THE basis for the design, production, and ongoing maintenance of numerous weapon systems. And many of these countries continue to work to advance the principals of CALS more aggressively than the United States where this effort originated.

    Perhaps others recognize a good idea when they see it. Or perhaps it’s another case where an initiative lost support when it became clear that it was a complicated, long-term effort.

    Thanks to all who contributed.

  3. Steve Hitchins says:

    I remember CALS being a cause celebre of Bill Harrelson. CALS was never a big thing in the UK but it influenced some projects over here. STEP (originally a French initiative)was seen as a method of achieving CALS. STEP itself was preceded by PDES another of Bills causes, though I think PDES waas incorporated into STEP.
    The big UK program that was CALS based was LITS (Logistics Information and Technology System) this was an airforce contract awarded to IBM that was big on sgml encapsulation as a way of unifying a very wide range of data types.

    Regards Steve

    • David Fulton says:

      I had forgotten about Bill’s involvement. I’ll have to reach out to him (he’s still in the Boston area) and see if he can help. CALS was a US Department of Defence (DoD) program so its impact to the UK would be, as you have noted, mostly indirect.
      Best wishes,

  4. David Fulton says:

    Some additional references to CALS for those who may be interested, provided by Joyce.
    * NATO CALS Handbook
    * CALS Military Handbook and Implementation Guide

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