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exactly what technology we’re going to use five to nine years from now.” Instead, he argued that DOD should adopt a software-centric approach to technology acquisition.
“Hardware-centric worked for a long time; that’s the way the world worked,” Moulton said at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control symposium in July. Now, however, “it’s very much a software world.... We need to recognize that in a lot of cases, it’s the software that is really the core technology, and we just need to be able to bolt on differ- ent hardware as it becomes available.”
In its final report, the Cyberspace Solarium Commission recommended that the Federal Acquisition Regula- tion be amended to include cyberse- curity requirements and the mitigation of software vulnerabilities, while the National Security Commission on AI (NSCAI) said DOD should accelerate its adoption of emerging technologies by streamlining its acquisition process.
“Adherence to cost, schedule and performance baselines is rarely a proxy for value delivered but is particularly unsuited for measuring and incentiv- izing the iterative approaches inherent in AI and other software-based digital
able to adapt to a world where Moore’s law is no longer correct.” Moore’s law states that the number of transistors on a microchip doubles about every two years, but Halvorsen said, “We’re changing faster than that.”
Overhauling the budget planning and acquisition processes could do more harm than good, he added. Instead, DOD needs “a way to be able to better address the fact that in today’s world, we’re really not going to be able to pre- dict the technology future.”
In Congress, though, lawmakers continue to push the idea of making the budgeting process more flexible. The Senate’s latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2022 includes two provisions aimed at reforming the PPBE process: One would establish an independent com- mission to explore options, and anoth- er would direct DOD’s CIO and chief data officer to develop a plan to con- solidate the IT systems used to manage data and support the PPBE process.
Halvorsen argued that Congress could help by speeding its own bud- get approval process. “If you could get so the budget actually passed on time more frequently and was more adap- tive, that would probably go a long way toward making things better,” he said.
Enrico Serafini, CEO of pExchange, said the best solution is for DOD to efficiently manage its budget to create more accountability. He told FCW that the latest discourse focuses on how to buy technology faster to achieve objectives faster. “If you can provide the justifications and manage that in smaller cycles, I think that really ought to be the answer,” said Serafini, whose company provides budget software, database management and advanced analytics solutions to DOD.
Changing minds,
reforming habits
Nicolas Chaillan recently resigned as the
Air Force’s chief software officer because he said DOD’s bureaucracy was at odds
Reforming budget and acquisition
processes is a well-worn topic on Capi- “Hardware-centric
tol Hill and across DOD. But as weap- ons systems become more reliant on software than hardware, the request for tangible change is intensifying.
In a report published in February, the Hudson Institute recommends that DOD or Congress “sponsor a commis- sion to study holistic changes to the planning, programming, budget and execution (PPBE) and appropriations process structured to ensure that the U.S. has a competitive advantage in long-term competition while main- taining Congress’ constitutional role.”
Furthermore, the institute states that software performed 80% of sys- tem functions in the F-22 fighter jet in 2000, up from 45% for the F-16 in 1982. Today, software is so integral to the F-35 that the Government Account- ability Office recently advised DOD to update the aircraft’s modernization schedule, automate data collection on software development performance and set software quality performance targets, which DOD agreed to do.
During a hearing in May, Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said the Senate Armed Services Committee has been focusing on reforms to the PPBE pro- cess, which has been in place since the 1960s. “It was a model that was appro- priate for the Industrial Age, but we’re in a post-Industrial Age,” he added.
worked for a long time; that’s the way the world worked. [But now] it’s very much a software world.”
technologies,” the NSCAI report states. “Unless the requirements, budgeting and acquisition processes are aligned to permit faster and more targeted exe- cution, the U.S. will fail to stay ahead of potential adversaries.”
So with consensus growing, why hasn’t reform happened?
Terry Halvorsen, former DOD CIO and now general manager of client and solutions development for the federal and public sector at IBM, told FCW he doesn’t think major acquisition or budget reform is the answer.
“Is the acquisition system bad? No,” he said. “Is the acquisition system as responsive as it needs to be today to the changes in technology? No, and that’s not just a government problem. That’s also an industry problem.... I think the government is wrestling with how to streamline that process to be
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