The Department of Defense (DoD) has taken some actions to modernize its software technologies, policies, and workforce; however more needs to be done for the agency to reach its software modernization goals, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

According to the report, the DoD’s ability to respond to evolving threats is increasingly determined by its efforts to modernize software-intensive systems – such as weapons and IT systems.

The Defense Science Board (DSB) and Defense Innovation Board (DIB) published reports in 2018 and 2019, respectively, which made recommendations to improve DoD’s software practices. However, GAO said the Pentagon has not fully implemented all of these recommendations.

“For 13 of the 17 recommendations, DoD has yet to take certain actions outlined in the recommendations,” the report says. “For example, while DoD enhanced training for its software workforce, it has yet to establish a cadre of software developers.”

“DoD officials stated that they have addressed the intent of the recommendations and do not plan to fully implement all recommended actions, in part, because certain actions may be impractical or outdated,” it continues.

Additionally, GAO said that DoD has outlined its planned modernization goals, but has yet to take certain steps – recommended by GAO’s past work – to position itself to successfully reach those goals.

For example, the government watchdog agency said that DoD has not finalized implementation plans or conducted strategic planning for its software workforce to ensure it successfully implements its planned reforms.

“Taking such steps would better position DoD to implement its planned reforms, which are aimed at helping achieve its goal of more rapidly delivering software to its users,” the report says.

GAO made seven recommendations, including that DoD finalize implementation plans for future software modernization efforts and develop a software workforce plan. DoD concurred with four recommendations and partially concurred with three recommendations.

However, GAO said it believes that all of its recommendations are warranted, and noted that “the steps outlined in DoD’s written comments are not likely to fully address challenges that we identified in the report.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.