Air Force needs more efficiency from ‘raindrop’ software

Capt. Sarah Miller and Tech. Sgt. Carrol Brewster, 834th Cyber Operations Squadron, discuss options in response to a staged cyber attack during filming of a scene for an Air Force Reserve Command mission video at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, on June 1, 2019. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Maj. Christopher Vasquez)

WASHINGTON: The Air Force needs a strategy to get more out of its investments in its different “raindrops” of software factories, according to a former Pentagon official who said he also fears the service isn’t growing enough talent in those initiatives.

Ed Wilson, former deputy principal cyber advisor to the secretary of defense, said though he’s a “big fan” of the “software factories for DevSecOps,” and sees their continued growth, he questioned how the service could “gain a bit more efficiency at times.” DevSecOps refers to an approach that combines software development, cyber security and software operations.

“I’m not…for more bureaucracy, but we kind of have raindrops of software factories out there,” Wilson said at the America’s Future Space Innovation Summit on Tuesday. “Not all are created equal. There’s more success stories than others.”

He added his “fear would be we’re not growing enough talent that can be successful in those environments. And so I think we need to pay attention to that talent pool for the DevSecOps.”

The Air Force has a number of software factories tasked with developing and delivering new software spread throughout the country, including space-specific innovation hubs and platformONE, the Defense Department’s DevSecOps environment. In total, 29 software factories exist today across the military services.

Wilson’s comments appear echo some concerns that were addressed in a Pentagon-wide software modernization strategy released Feb. 2. That strategy called for harnessing all 29 factories and establishing an enterprise-level “ecosystem” in a move to more rapidly acquire and deliver software at speed.

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The goal of the modernization strategy is to have a centralized software hub that would help streamline control points for end-to-end software delivery and speed innovation into soldiers’ hands. It also warned that current DoD processes governing the way the department buys, implements and operates across missions can’t keep up with the changing pace of technology.

To Wilson’s comments about not growing enough talent, a major objective in the strategy calls for “advancing technical competencies,” or improving the workforce.

DoD wants to establish a “standard and dynamic inventory of baseline training and augment that training with investments in cross-Service, on-the-job apprenticeship programs and rotation opportunities,” according to the strategy.

Jason Weiss, DoD’s chief software officer, told reporters in February that the Pentagon had also created a task force under the Software Modernization Steering Group to recommend best practices and policy changes for the factories.

“We’re seeing lots of lessons learned start to percolate to the top and a lot of collaboration taking place through things like our DevSecOps community of practice,” Weiss said. “So it is a living and breathing ecosystem. And we are going to be looking at and listening to those software factories to determine what policy changes to prioritize and when to affect them.”