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Fixing Acquisitions, First Step: The Digital Transformation – Part 3

Botttom Line Up Front: The Defense Science Board’s 2018 report recommended some reforms the Department of Defense could undertake to be more like commercial software industry.

So Where Were We?

We continue to work our way through Ellen Lord’s article on how she’s overhauling Federal acquisitions. Yesterday we talked about how Federal acquisitions is super broken. Today we talk about how she began to fix it.

How to fix it?

So faced with the horrible trainwreck that is Federal acquisitions, she reached out to a bunch of science types:

“A February 2018 Defense Science Board (DSB) report provided an initial catalyst. With seven key recommendations that were largely informed by the innovation of domestic and global software industries, in short, commercial best practices pointed a clear direction for DoD’s improvement.”

The Defense Science Board is an advisory group invented during the Cold War to advise the Federal Government on issues of science and technology. Ellen Lord asked if they could suggest ways to improve how the Feds acquired technology, with a specific focus on software.

So What Was The Problem?

In a nutshell, the DSB said the Government was stuck in the 1970s:

“Software development in the commercial world has undergone significant change in the last 15 years, while development of software for defense systems has continued to use techniques developed in the 1970s through the 1990s.”

So What Can The Feds Do?

In a nutshell, modernize to present-day commercial best practices. Go from the 1970s to the 2020s. Be more like Amazon and Google. Do what Silicon Valley does today.

Specifically, the Defense Science Board had seven recommendations:

  1. Purchase software from vendors with good “Software Factories.”
  2. Create software through continuous iterations.
  3. Change the metrics they use for “Risk Reduction.”
  4. Current software projects should shift to commercial best practices.
  5. The Defense workforce should re-educate itself and learn contemporary practices.
  6. Software has a long useful lifetime, so plan for that up front.
  7. Machine learning.

These seven recommendations are explained in great detail in the report. If you are interested in taking a closer look, click here to read it.

That’s Going To Be A Big Shake Up

Yes, an entire industry spanning thousands of companies, millions of workers, and uncounted Government agencies, not to mention all branches of the US Military. But what choice did they have? Continue being stuck like always?

If you are in Government software, expect your world to be turning upside-down. If you are in commercial software, hey, the Government is finally coming into the 21st Century!

So Then What Happened?

Find out tomorrow!