I recently went to a presentation by Don Johnson, Advisor to the Defense Sciences Task Force on Acquisition of Information Technology within the DOD. This group has been investigating how to speed up and lean out the acquisition process within the DOD for some time now and they have a new report out with their recommendations. The task force is recommending that the DOD take an Agile approach and furthermore, they have asked for and have received congressional approval to begin piloting the use of Agile in the procurement of large DOD systems! Some of the reasons for this move towards agile are:
- The current technology acquisition process was designed decades ago and is no longer suitable for the rapid pace of change that is required to design, develop, and deploy latest technology solutions to the field.
- The current process is designed for and better suited towards large platforms such as ships and planes than for software intensive systems.
- The USA has a declining software development pipeline. The number of American citizen college graduates in the technology fields is shrinking. Finding clearable employees is getting more and more difficult. Therefore, we need processes that make us significantly more productive. It is likely that we will need to produce far more software with fewer resources.
- In 1970, IT accounted for only about 20% of weapon system functionality. Today, it sometimes accounts for as much as 90% of weapon system functionality.
- The current acquisition and development process has an average delivery time of 91 months!
For these and other reasons, congress has granted the DOD the authority to modify the current acquisition and development process for up to 10 large systems annually to utilize an Agile approach and the DOD will update congress annually on the results of the new process. The new process will feature Scrum-like iterations, early and frequent delivery of working software,and some degree of requirements flexibility.
This is an exciting time for us in the Agile community as the DOD recognizes the success that Agile has had in the commercial marketplace. But the DOD’s adoption of Agile will also bring extraordinary challenges. The scale and complexity of modern defense systems will certainly tax our existing methods. However, I am sure that working together, we can improve significantly on the current process.
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