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A Look Inside The DOD’s Software Factory Boom With Pentagon’s Top Software Official

Software factories are a central component of the Department of Defense’s enterprise-wide software modernization effort, and today, they’re growing slowly but surely across the defense landscape. But there’s still much to be accomplished in building out a full-fledged software factory ecosystem.

DOD Chief Software Officer Rob Vietmeyer said that while the department doesn’t yet have enough software factories, it’s entering a phase of expansion.

Vietmeyer will deliver a keynote address at the ExecutiveBiz 2023 Defense Software Modernization Forum on June 7. Tune in to get the latest updates on the state of software modernization from top DOD, Army and Space Force leaders. Register here.

“In the past, we’ve focused on acquisitions of product systems, acquisition of things, and now the focus is on not the end state, but the means for production. We’re focusing on software factories, platform engineering and cloud components,” Vietmeyer told C4ISRNET. 

According to the DOD’s Software Modernization Implementation Plan, approved by DOD CIO John Sherman in April 2023, software factories are “collections of people, tools and processes that enable teams to continuously deliver value by deploying software to meet the needs of a specific community of end users while enabling continuous rollout and cutting-edge cyber resilience.”

As more crop up, these software factories will create a robust ecosystem for the DOD that can support operations, production, acquisition and delivery of mission capabilities such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, data analytics, advanced software technologies and more.

Vietmeyer said at TechNet Cyber 2023 that software factories are currently “incorporating model-based system engineering approaches, digital twins, and so you can start to see these pipelines become more and more tailored to the particular weapon system, and that’s only accelerating their ability to continuously update those platforms to get new life out of platforms that quite frankly many of them older than I am, that are still operating and they’re continuing to now drive continuous new capabilities.”

Software factories are still relatively nascent across the DOD, and the U.S. military has embraced software factories in recent years, but at a staggered pace. For example, the Air Force stood up its software factory Kessel Run in 2017, and for the past six years, it has been a leader in the DOD’s software modernization push. 

The Marine Corps, by comparison, just launched its first software factory under a three-year pilot program. The Marine software factory pilot will be co-located with the Army Software Factory established in 2021 in Austin, Texas.

Meanwhile, the Army has been working to ramp up the use of and improve its Software Acquisition Pathway, or SWP for short.

Jennifer Swanson, the Army’s deputy assistant secretary for data, engineering and software, said the service is focusing on eliminating bureaucratic hurdles and regulations that keep the Army from using SWP to its full potential.

“There’s a lot of support within the Army and DoD to make that happen,” Swanson told Breaking Defense. “I honestly believe by the end of next year, we’ll be in a much better place. We’ll have a lot more flexibility to do what industry does.”

Swanson is a member of the panel for the upcoming 2023 Defense Software Modernization Forum hosted by ExecutiveBiz on June 8. Join the virtual event to hear more about the challenges and opportunities on the horizon for the Army’s SWP and other software efforts. Register here

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