The Pentagon CIO office’s plan for better software

The Pentagon CIO office’s plan for better software

With just weeks until the Department of Defense plans to begin building its controversial enterprise cloud, one top DoD IT official laid out how the cloud will serve as a platform for another modernization effort: software.

“I really think that this cloud portion of the modernization strategy ought to be focused on software modernization, or, more specifically, software agility,” said Peter Ranks, the DoD’s deputy chief information officer for information enterprise, speaking Jan. 23 at MeriTalk’s Smart 2020 event.

In a scenario in which the United States is fighting a near-peer competitor, the Pentagon needs the ability to send capabilities out to the war fighter and subsequently send updates without interrupting operations.

“Nothing in the Department of Defense, in any of our processes, prepares us to be able to move with that type of agility in software,” Ranks said. “The whole concept that you’re going to field something before it’s complete and fix the bugs in production” is foreign to the DoD.

In his speech, Ranks detailed several efforts underway at the DoD to increase update speed. To start, Ranks said, the DoD CIO’s office is changing policy to allow for more iterative processes in acquisition, a departure from the current process where requirements are laid out years before technology is delivered. To complete that goal, Ranks said the DoD needs the enterprise capability to provide the tools necessary to create a more iterative process.

Ranks said he is also working to create a continuous authorization to operate, similar to the one used through the Air Force’s Kessel Run program, which would allow the DoD to send out software patches in real time without having to go the laborious process to get the update approved, allowing the DoD to move faster.

Changes could also be coming to acquisition language in 2020, Ranks said. He said there’s been “good progress” on working to reduce large milestone-based deliverables in favor of a policy that “encourages a bias in the delivery of software toward delivery of small amounts of capability.”

The Pentagon plans to work with industry to revise the policy to make it more effective.

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