Software Accounting in Weapons Systems – FCW


Defense

Software accounting in weapon systems

Headsets with multi-input screens designed to work with the F-35 Lightning II (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erica Webster)

The Department of Defense is always trying to find the best way to buy software and keep track of those expenses, especially when it comes to software components of expensive weapon systems.

One possible solution is to separate software and hardware costs, but this approach brings its share of headaches.

David Cadman, acting Deputy Defense Secretary for Acquisition Facilitators, told an industry conference that cost separation potentially solves some problems, but could work against the very type of flexibility and the agility that defense leaders and their supervisors in Congress are looking for.

“We paved the way for software with this idea of [yielding] a minimum viable product with these quick updates and deliveries, Cadman said at the National Defense Industry Association’s Virtual Systems and Mission Engineering conference Monday. “We worked with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to repair the [Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System] process so that we are not forced with the computer box and we can expand our requirements to make sense of it all. But I’m telling you, that’s what keeps me awake at night.

Cadman, who is also director of data acquisition and analytics, said that while DOD has historically been somewhat “slow and dumb” when it comes to software, the software acquisition path can help ease the way. work of the program manager, but there are still open questions on how best to use the tool.

“There is this inherent integration with hardware,” Cadman said, noting that some of the F-35’s flight test problems could have been solved by software or hardware, and that it is up to program managers. make that call.

The Department of Defense is making several ongoing efforts to improve its purchasing and tracking of software, from a series of congressional-authorized pilots to the software acquisition route, which was part of a policy rewrite of defense acquisition released in 2020. And while information is being collected on lessons learned from the efforts, little data on their progress and impact has yet been released.

Cadman said that overall the initiatives, including SWAP, are an improvement over what DOD was doing before. However, with the pilots, often referred to as BA-08 programs, he said the biggest complaint had been submitting so-called “earned value reports” on software.

“If you’re not doing earned value, what are you doing?” I mean, you can’t be unmanaged when you’re doing your program, ”he said. “So I’m not saying I know what’s the best way to do business, but why don’t you work with us to try to figure out what’s the best way to run the programs? “

Cadman noted that part of the solution lies in changing the culture, in addition to providing more tools, among program managers. But the concern is that more options could mean more variables.

“I’m afraid … that we don’t collect enough examples of what is good, I’m afraid we’re trying to pick a one-size-fits-all solution,” Cadman said.

But this idea of ​​splitting up programs, he said, could be applied to mid-level acquisitions with an exclusion using the software acquisition path.

“I wish more programs would pick it up,” Cadman said of the software acquisition path. “But it’s separate from how I support a hardware program if I’m a software program, do I have to remove it?” Am I just implementing agile practices in my major capabilities program? It is certainly a viable alternative. And we are open to these concepts.

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is a senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was a tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In previous positions, Williams has covered healthcare, politics and crime for various publications, including the Seattle Times.

Williams holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor’s degree in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

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