To respond to evolving threats, the Department of Defense (DOD) must develop and deliver software-based weapon and IT systems quickly. DOD has started modernizing its software technologies, policies, and workforce to achieve this.
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) review has found that DOD’s modernization efforts at least partially implement all 17 Defense Science Board (DSB) and Defense Innovation Board (DIB) recommendations, some of which include multiple recommended actions. For example, DOD substantially implemented two DIB recommendations by streamlining software acquisition processes and piloting a new funding approach to deliver software faster.
However, GAO also found that DOD is yet to fully act on 13 of the 17 recommendations. For example, while DOD enhanced training for its software workforce, it has yet to establish a cadre of software developers. DOD officials told GAO 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and do not plan to fully implement all recommended actions, in part, because certain actions may be impractical or outdated. The DSB and DIB recommendations date from 2018 and 2019 respectively.
GAO found that DOD has outlined transformational plans to continue software modernization. According to DOD, its plans will require a cohesive department-wide effort that will take time to fully implement. The government watchdog is concerned that DOD has yet to take certain steps recommended by GAO’s past work to position itself to effectively implement its planned reforms. The review found that DOD has yet to finalize implementation plans for these efforts or conduct strategic planning for its software workforce to ensure it has the needed skillsets to implement reforms.
GAO is making 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.