The U.S. Army, including the various program executive officers (PEOs), are taking a variety of steps to apply the service’s digital transformation strategy to acquisition processes. Agile acquisition will ultimately allow the service to deliver better capabilities to soldiers more rapidly, multiple PEOs indicated while serving on a panel on the first day of the AFCEA TechNet Augusta conference, held in Augusta, Georgia, August 15-17.


Jennifer Swanson, deputy assistant secretary of the Army (data, engineering and software), kicked off the panel by noting modern Army systems are largely software enabled, making continuous integration/continuous delivery (CICD) practices a must.


“Software drives all of our systems. I can’t think of a system in the field or in the enterprise that isn’t driven by software,” she said. “Being able to get to CICD is absolutely critical so that we can keep the systems updated and enable overmatch that way because we don’t know what our near-peer adversaries are going to bring to the table.”


She added that CICD is an Army-wide effort, and that the service is overhauling its requirements processes. “From a requirements perspective, we’re going to get high-level requirements documents, not, like, really 600-page monolithic, bigger requirements documents,” she said, adding that Army Futures Command and Army Forces Command will then refine the requirements.


Additionally, since software is always being updated, it will no longer transition to Army Material Command for sustainment, as most systems do once they’ve completed fielding and are simply being maintained for readiness. “If we’re going to continue adding capability, we need to have the lifecycle manager under the [program manager]. That is a big deal,” she said.


Furthermore, all requests for proposals now require evaluation of the company’s agility, not just an evaluation of the solution itself. “That is critical. We can get shiny objects, but if we cannot maintain and keep those shiny objects updated with new requirements as those requirements evolve, then we’re not really doing agile development,” she declared.


Swanson touted the benefits of the data mesh, which the service started building in May. The Army needs a data mesh for multiple reasons, she said, but she highlighted two. “One, we wanted a distributed architecture, not an aggregated architecture because we’re the Army, so we don’t have the network to have these massive data lakes that are replicating and pushing data everywhere. We will crush the network,” she said. “We need another way, and the data mesh is a distributed architecture that will allow us to have nodes in different places where we need them.”

Reprinted from SIGNAL Online, August 15, 2023, with permission of SIGNAL Media. Copyright 2023. All rights reserved.

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