The Pentagon has a plan to solve its software development problems
The concept of agile software factories is not new to the DoD. They already exist in each of the military services. But the Pentagon believes the critical next steps are to integrate these relatively small innovation hubs into a cohesive “ecosystem” that shares code across service boundaries, uses a common set of business development tools, and dramatically accelerates development. safety approval process for each part. of software coming out of these factories.
Larger, more integrated software factories are one of three major goals of an ambitious new software modernization strategy Undersecretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks approved last week. The document also highlights the need to move the military to a well-designed cloud computing environment and reform its acquisition and other bureaucratic processes to make them more software-friendly.
“Delivering more lethal force requires the ability to move faster and be more adaptable than our adversaries,” Hicks wrote in a preamble to the strategy, which the DoD released Friday. “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. Reducing software delivery times from years to minutes will require significant changes in our processes, policies, people and technology.
The focus on software factories echoes the approach the Air Force has taken in its own efforts to modernize software, at least in pockets. This service has more than a dozen such factories working in various commands, but also considers them part of an “ecosystem” that operates Platform One, its centralized DevSecOps environment. The Pentagon officially designated Platform One as a DoD-wide enterprise service in 2020.
While the new strategy doesn’t call for the entire department to specifically move to Platform One, it does highlight the need for DoD developers to converge on a “reasonable” number of service providers and software repositories.
“Large-scale DevSecOps platforms must provide not only technical capabilities, but also the processes to attract and onboard customers (e.g., business operations model, sustaining model, and cybersecurity)”, according to the strategy. “This ecosystem of DevSecOps platforms must also provide a diversity of capabilities to meet the department’s different mission scenarios.”
The document takes a similar stance when it comes to cloud computing services. He doesn’t insist that DoD components use the JWCC (Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability) contracts the department is about to award to four major cloud companies, but stresses the need for a reasonable “portfolio” of JWCC contracts. enterprise cloud that eliminates duplicates.
“The multi-cloud, multi-vendor approach is still valid,” the strategy says. “The cloud requirement across all classification domains, from the enterprise to the tactical edge, is still valid. The need to move from disparate cloud efforts to a structured, integrated, and cost-effective cloud portfolio remains the department’s intent.
The DoD’s path forward was clearly influenced by the Defense Innovation Board’s 2019 study on software acquisition, which the new strategy calls by name.
The imperative to share code and development infrastructure between DoD organizations is a major theme specifically mentioned; reforming the DoD’s internal acquisition and budgeting processes to make them more compatible with the rapid clip of modern software development is another.
The department has already made some progress in implementing the DIB’s recommendations by creating a new software-specific “pathway” in the latest rewrite of its main internal acquisition instruction (DoDI 5000.02), but the strategy says leaders need to do a lot more, including updating other informal policies and guidance that make modern software development harder than it should be.
These upcoming reforms must also include very serious changes in how the DoD thinks about its workforce, the strategy says.
“Developers aren’t the only ones having an impact on software modernization. From infrastructure managers to operators, the entire workforce has the opportunity to scale technology,” the Defense leaders wrote. “The department needs to move toward a technology savvy workforce, not just the combatant, but everyone who serves the various defense missions. The entire workforce needs to understand their role in software delivery and find ways to streamline processes, push for automation, and better leverage technology.
While last week’s document is a fairly comprehensive articulation of the DoD’s big ideas for how to make its software practices more responsive to real-world demands, it doesn’t actually say how the department will achieve those goals.
This much more difficult task was assigned to a task force comprised of leaders from the DoD CIO offices, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, and the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and engineering.
Hicks’ memo approving the strategy gives that body, the Software Modernization Senior Steering Group (SWSSG), six months to develop a detailed implementation plan. Once this is done, the same group will continue to meet thereafter to ensure that the department is making measurable progress. The strategy itself includes action plans that will be updated and reassessed each year.
“The SSG will develop performance metrics to measure progress against meaningful business outcomes and regularly reassess the action plan to ensure that priorities and target activities remain relevant and of value,” according to the strategy. “They will follow the release of this strategy with various guidance documents (e.g. policy, reference designs and standards) to support implementation and ensure integration with other initiatives such as [Joint All-Domain Command and Control], zero confidence and superiority of the electromagnetic spectrum. Additionally, they will establish a portfolio of software capabilities to integrate business, shape budget decisions, and ensure the smart investment of resources.