CASoS Engineering
Sandia National Laboratories
Casos Engineering Lead:

Programmatic papers:

A Roadmap for the Complex Adaptive Systems of Systems (CASoS) Engineering Initiative (report)

Engineering Solutions in an Interdependent World: The CASoS Roadmap (presentation)

Phoenix: Complex Adaptive System of Systems (CASoS) Engineering Version 1.0

Complex Adaptive System of Systems (CASoS) Engineering Applications Version 1.0

Complex Adaptive System of Systems (CASoS) Engineering Framework Version 1.0

Complex Adaptive System of Systems (CASoS) Engineering Environment Version 1.0

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Image of rain forest, farm fields, urban core, and electric power linesComplex Adaptive Systems of Systems, or CASoS, are vastly complex physical-socio-technical systems which we must understand to design a secure future for the nation and the world.

Examples include:

Perturbations/disruptions in CASoS bring with them the potential for far-reaching effects due to highly-saturated interdependencies and attendant vulnerabilities to cascades in associated systems. For example, the global effects of disruption within CASoS can be seen in the impacts of the Japanese earthquake/tsunami on not only the people and industry of Japan, but also on US car manufacturers, on global energy and financial markets, and on the future of nuclear power production around the world. We approach this sort of high-impact problem space as engineers, devising interventions or problem solutions that influence CASoS to achieve specific aspirations, an activity we call CASoS Engineering. Through application to real-world problems, the CASoS Engineering Initiative at Sandia National Laboratories is evolving CASoS Engineering principles while growing a community of practice and the CASoS engineers to populate it. The Initiative is both grounded in reality and works to extend our understanding and control of that reality; it is both a solution within a CASoS and a CASoS itself.

As engineers, we are interested in influencing (designing, controlling, manipulating) a CASoS to solve a problem, exploit an opportunity, achieve a goal, and/or answer a question. We argue that while the contexts for various CASoS differ widely, they are all deeply similar; that the theories, technologies, tools, and approaches to enable effective engineering efforts focused on the solution of CASoS problems are the same across all.

Definition of CASoS as an Object of Engineering

The first step on the path to engineering within a CASoS (or engineering a CASoS itself) is to articulate how the object of analysis is a System, a System of Systems, Complex, and Adaptive.

Text describing elements of CASoS engineering

Making the object of analysis an object of engineering produces the problem definition needed to articulate the Aspirations for affecting or designing the CASoS, the Approaches required, and an evaluation of Attainability.

Phases of CASoS Engineering approach

This first Defining step is illustrated in a set of prototypical Defining Examples that encompass many of humanity's largest problems such as Global Climate Change, Conflict End Games, and newly emerging worldwide emphases such as large-scale natural disasters, pandemics, global finance, and global economic supply chains.


Diagram of conceptual lens on Elements and interactions in a complex adaptive network

The roots of this initiative grew in the fertile soil of the National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC) program at Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia). In 2002 we formed the Advanced Methods and Techniques Investigation group within NISAC to filter concepts from the Complex Systems literature that cross disciplines, and to identify study/modeling approaches that could be of direct use to NISAC. We also worked to identify common unresolved issues pertaining to the application of Complex Adaptive Systems modeling to real-world situations and defined our R&D effort for Complex, Interdependent Adaptive Infrastructure to resolve the issues of greatest importance to NISAC.


Diagram of CASoS Engineering, Theory, and Experiment evolution as evolving with application to real world problemsSandia leadership commissioned a Roadmap for pursuing CASoS Engineering (2007-2008) in which we first articulated a set of Defining examples for a broad spectrum of CASoS to verify our assumption of underlying commonalities. We then identified theoretical principles and an iterative adaptive structure for actualizing solutions influencing CASoS. This envisioned structure is composed of a set of 5 continuously expanding critical components:

Phoenix Pilot

Diagram of Phoenix development processIn accord with the Roadmap, we created the Phoenix Pilot in 2008 to begin building the discipline of CASoS Engineering. The Pilot implements CASoS Engineering principles combining the bottom up Complex Systems and Complex Adaptive Systems view with the top down Systems Engineering and System-of-Systems view.  Now integrating over 10 individual projects with more than $6M in funding, the pull of applications (real world problems) is advancing the development of the CASoS Engineering discipline: grounded in reality, the theory and practice conducted together are working to extend our understanding and control of that reality. The goal of the Phoenix Pilot is to engineer solutions to problems within CASoS while developing a community of practice and the CASoS Engineers to populate it. A summary, as presented at the 8th International Conference on Complex Systems, is given in Complex Adaptive Systems of Systems (CASoS) Engineering: Mapping Aspirations to Problem Solutions. Both short and long presentations are also available for download. The full description of this evolution to date is provided in the "living manuscript" Phoenix: Complex Adaptive System of Systems (CASoS) Engineering Version 1.0.

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