DoD Addresses Software Development Challenges

Algorithmic warfare: the DoD takes on the challenges of software development


By Yasmine Tadjdeh

Illustration from iStock

The Pentagon is reviewing its acquisition of mission-critical software as it increasingly relies on new automation and decision-making systems, officials say.

“Delivering a more lethal force requires the ability to move faster and be more adaptable than our adversaries,” Undersecretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said in a February memo. “The department’s adaptability increasingly relies on software, and the ability to quickly and securely deliver resilient software capabilities is a competitive advantage that will define future conflicts.”

In the memo, Hicks endorsed a new modernization strategy aimed at accelerating software delivery schedules.

“Transforming software delivery times from years to minutes will require significant changes in our processes, policies, people and technology,” she said.

The strategy will support Pentagon priorities such as developing common command and control and artificial intelligence platforms across all domains.

“The approach is hands-on – unify efforts across the DoD and partner with industry-leading software institutes to produce a portfolio of best-in-class software capabilities enabled by DoD processes,” according to the document. “These capabilities must grow and integrate with other infrastructure components to include zero-trust architectures, electromagnetic spectrum capabilities, and a growing inventory of connected military devices.”

The implementation will be led by a senior software modernization steering group, according to Hicks. The group was tasked with providing an implementation plan within 180 days of the memo’s release.

Software delivery is “not a one-size-fits-all business” and approaching technology development in this way is detrimental, according to the strategy. Instead, the document presents a modernization framework that includes a minimal set of technical and process enablers that must be considered.

The framework “serves as a common lexicon and organizing structure for discussing and coordinating software modernization activities,” the strategy says. “It is not intended to be overarching or definitive, but rather serves as a guidepost to focus implementation.”

Danielle Metz, the Defense Department’s deputy chief information officer for information enterprises, said the Pentagon is considering how to transform business processes to ensure agility is built into every step of the enterprise. software purchase, including contracting, acquisition, testing, evaluation and delivery.

The offices of the Chief Information Officer, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, and the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering are teaming up – in partnership with the commands of the combatants and other defense agencies — to remove impediments and impediments to current Pentagon processes to streamline, improve, update and revolutionize software acquisition, Metz said during a recent roundtable with reporters. .

The department wants to “democratize the exceptionalism” that has been seen in the pockets of the military — including the Air Force’s Cloud One program office and the Navy’s Black Pearl software factory — through the creation of a department-wide software factory ecosystem, Metz said.

“We want to be able to make sure that we instill that in the DNA of the department,” she said.

Jason Weiss, director of software at the Pentagon, said the Pentagon currently has 29 software factories across all departments.

“We’re starting to see some serious traction around this,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of lessons learned starting to flow all the way to the top and a lot of collaborations taking place. … We will review and listen to these software factories to determine what policy changes [we need] to prioritize. »

However, the ecosystem will not create onerous requirements or bureaucracy for existing software factories, Weiss said.

“I see us as strengthening and providing more momentum and encouragement for software factories instead of having to change the way they run today,” he said.

As the Pentagon seeks to scale the technology of the various factories, officials hope to create efficiencies and cost savings. For example, a core capability to target might include source code management, according to Weiss.

“Do we need each software factory to go out there and source, maintain, and operate its own source code repository?” Weiss asked. It’s an example “of where we can actually start to see economies of scale in terms of operational capacity and cost reduction for the department in these software factories.”

If the Pentagon can achieve this, it will allow the ecosystem to continue to grow while allowing factories to operate with higher degrees of scale and precision without having to start from scratch at each stage, he said. he declares.

The new strategy is a subset of the Department of Defense’s digital modernization strategy and replaces the Pentagon’s cloud strategy released in 2018.

“Given the role and ubiquity of software in all aspects of mission capabilities and supporting infrastructure, the successful implementation of this strategy will be highly dependent on our partnerships across the department,” Weiss said.

Beyond acquiring new technologies, the guidelines reinforce the need to attract and retain workforce talent, Weiss noted. The Pentagon needs to hire the right people to fill leadership positions, and individuals need to engage in “upskilling” efforts.

“No one can be left behind on this journey,” including the military and civil servants, he said. “In this era of competition and a race for digital dominance, we simply can’t settle for incremental change any longer. The department must come together to deliver better software and operate as a force for the 21st century.

Topics: Infotech, Department of Defense

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