The Department of Defense (DoD) has fallen behind in applying Agile software development principles to its software acquisition tools for some of its weapons programs, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released on July 20.
The report indicates that the Defense Department must move from the antiquated waterfall development process – that can take upwards of 10 years to deliver software – to the Agile development process, which can produce software in less than a year for DoD users.
“DoD…has not developed a plan or identified resources to enable the adoption of modern engineering tools across all programs. The absence of a plan prevents DOD from fully realizing the benefits of Agile,” the GAO report says.
Although the Defense Department has taken steps to develop policies and guidance for the oversight of these weapons programs, GAO said “DoD has not issued corresponding policies or guidance for weapon programs using Agile software development on other pathways.”
“As a result, programs on other acquisition pathways, such as those developing new aircraft or ships, may not be positioned to conduct effective oversight of iteratively delivered software capabilities,” the report says.
The report makes three vital recommendations for the DoD to be up to date with its implementation of Agile capabilities, which include the following:
- The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff collaborate to incorporate Agile principles into requirements policy and guidance for all programs using Agile for software development;
- The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment incorporate oversight of Agile development of software into acquisition policy and guidance for all programs using Agile. This should include the use of metrics, including outcome-based metrics, and continually assessing the value of capability delivered to support iterative software development;
- The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, with the input of the military departments, establishes an overarching plan – which identifies associated resources – to enable the adoption of modern engineering tools, across all programs.
The Defense Department only partially concurred with all three recommendations.