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Digital Transformation in Defense Manufacturing: The DoD’s New Digital Engineering Instruction

Aerospace Defense Engineer

On December 21, 2023, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) released Digital Engineering Instruction 5000.97 (DoDI 5000.97)1. The DoD mandate requires new defense acquisition programs to implement digital technologies and practices for the development and sustainment of defense systems beginning in 2024. It primarily focuses on six acquisition categories: Major Capability, Middle Tier, Software, Defense Business Systems, Urgent Capability, and Service.

Program managers must now adopt digital engineering procedures as early in program planning as possible and across the system lifecycle. Although programs initiated before December 2023 are not required to implement digital engineering, they are encouraged to do so when it is deemed feasible. Because the DoD typically sets the pace for this type of policy adoption, other federal agencies like National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Energy are likely to follow.


The directive significantly impacts the way companies innovate by steering them away from traditional paper/document-based processes. Moving forward, DoD contractors will need to adopt advanced digital applications like product lifecycle management (PLM), computer-aided design (CAD), and model-based systems engineering (MBSE) to support the design, development, validation, and maintenance of defense systems. Having a digital framework in place will be crucial to gaining a competitive advantage and winning DoD program bids.


The digital engineering instruction is aimed at helping DoD contractors and other organizations across the defense industrial base (DIB) modernize product development considering today’s increasing technological advancements, supply chain instability, threats, and defense system lifespan. By embracing robust digital solutions, organizations establish a collaborative work environment and streamline the flow of information. In turn, they can make smarter, data-driven decisions that support the timely delivery of high-performance products.


As part of the DoD’s digital engineering framework, aerospace and defense manufacturers will need to:

  • Implement the necessary IT infrastructure and resources (i.e., hardware, software, networks, employees) to help drive a successful digital transformation
  • Employ advanced digital solutions like PLM to support all phases of the product lifecycle, from initial concept, design, development, and production to testing, delivery, and maintenance
  • Use digital models such as 3D CAD to understand complex systems and system interdependence and readily communicate design concepts to stakeholders
  • Maintain requirements, bills of materials (BOMs), assembly instructions, drawings, technical specifications, and other digital artifacts that represent the product definition
  • Leverage product and quality data to analyze performance and gain actionable insights
  • Apply cybersecurity policies, standards, and best practices to protect sensitive data

The DoD issued a summary of the instruction emphasizing that “data management should adhere to DoD Data Strategy goals—make data visible, accessible, understandable, linked, trustworthy, interoperable, and secure.”2 In essence, organizations must have a single source of truth to facilitate the secure access and management of product information and to ensure technical accuracy.


Hassle-Free Setup, Deployment, and Maintenance

Enterprise cloud solutions like Arena PLM for AWS GovCloud help aerospace and defense manufacturers make a smooth transition to digital while fulfilling DoDI 5000.97 requirements. The system’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) distribution model eliminates the need for costly computer equipment, networks, and coding. Because product information is hosted on a secure, cloud-native platform, organizations can quickly deploy Arena and reap the benefits of regular enhancements without any downtime. Arena’s multilayered security framework protects sensitive information and helps simplify compliance with stringent cybersecurity regulations and export controls (e.g., CMMC, ITAR, EAR).

Enhanced Cross-Functional Collaboration

With the entire product design (mechanical, electrical, software) and associated BOMs, drawings, requirements, specifications, etc., centralized in a single source of truth, cross-functional teams can efficiently collaborate on product development activities from any location. Automated engineering change processes and revision controls are linked to product items, BOMs, and documentation, ensuring that everyone is always accessing accurate and up-to-date information.

Arena’s 3D visualization capability allows engineers to quickly share 3D CAD models with downstream product teams and partners and expedite the review process. In turn, they can ensure that designs meet their desired quality, performance, and cost criteria far in advance of production.

Full Traceability and Visibility

Requirements, training, nonconformance reports, and other critical records link directly to the product BOM, granting teams better traceability and visibility throughout the entire lifecycle. Since Arena maintains the complete product history, companies can leverage the system’s analytics tools to gain insights into product development processes and business performance over time.

Streamlined Connectivity With Other Enterprise Systems

Companies can extend the power of Arena PLM by connecting it with engineering design, enterprise resource planning (ERP), electronic component databases, manufacturing execution systems (MES), and other enterprise solutions. Arena’s convenient, no-code integrations with these systems allow for a seamless handoff of information between engineering, production, and manufacturing teams. Ultimately, they gain greater control over the entire new product development process and boost productivity.


With the DoD’s push for more modern, collaborative, and efficient approaches to product development, aerospace and defense manufacturers need a proven turnkey solution to make digital transformation a reality.

Watch this demo to see how Arena PLM for AWS GovCloud can help.


  1. DoD Instruction 5000.97. Digital Engineering. December 2023.
  2. Summary of DoD Instruction 5000.97, “Digital Engineering.” December 2023.