As the Department of Defense increases its focus on modernizing its software capabilities, officials say the primary focus should be on the platforms that serve as the foundation for these efforts.
Robert Vietmeyer, DOD’s director for cloud and software modernization, said the department is rethinking its approach to software development and taking a more holistic look at its manufacturing processes.
“If you’re going to do software modernization effectively, you really have to focus on what’s my underlying platform that I’m building on,” Vietmeyer said during the Defense Software Modernization Forum hosted by ExecutiveBiz Events.
Vietmeyer’s platform-centric software vision is built partly on his experience visiting SpaceX headquarters last year and seeing how their manufacturing processes worked. He described SpaceX’s ability to safely push software updates to its rockets up to 24 hours before launch as “phenomenal” and noted that this capability stems from the platform on which it is built and a keen focus on rapid software manufacturing.
This focus, he revealed, is “what’s missing in the department.”
“We’ve always focused on what’s the end deliverable, and that process doesn’t work,” commented Vietmeyer. “It never really worked well, and it certainly doesn’t work in this modern environment where threats and needs are continually changing. So we really have to rethink this process.”
Software factories will be a critical piece of this process restructuring effort, as they can serve as an operational system that can seamlessly integrate DevSecOps, he revealed.
However, part of rethinking this process, Vietmeyer explained, is hampered by longstanding cultural and organizational factors. For example, federal officials are still compartmentalizing aspects of software modernization and failing to see the bigger, department-wide picture.
“People are still thinking about the approach in our traditional stove pipes,” Vietmeyer shared, noting that organizations must start “breaking down those stove pipes and getting folks to realize when we say DevSecOps, what we mean is that seamless integration of development, security and operations supported by automated platforms that enable that integration to happen and to raise our cyber posture.”
Ultimately, these modernization and restructuring efforts are not just about IT or integrating the next new technology; at its core, software modernization is about national security.
“This is not just new systems. This is not just what we consider traditional IT systems,” said Vietmeyer. “We’re seeing a lot of the most advanced works actually happening in our cyber mechanical and weapons system side. So this is really about delivering warfighter capabilities and making sure we’re effective in the next conflict.”
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