Of all the challenges the Defense Department faces in buying and building software, the rules that govern how it pays for it are widely-considered one of the biggest.
The Pentagon is lining up a series of nine acquisition programs it wants to use as test cases to prove out the concept of using a new Congressional appropriations category that’s specific to software. They would let those programs break free from the “color of money” strictures that were originally designed for military hardware, but make little sense in the context of the agile software development model DoD aspires to embrace.
Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment, said DoD plans to announce the programs it’s nominating for the software appropriations pilot “soon.” Assuming Congress gives the okay, the department would start implementing the new funding line for those programs as soon as next fiscal year.
“It’s a very, very significant move, structurally, in how we get money,” she told attendees at the annual WEST 2020 premier sea services in San Diego recently. “But I think we will begin to see results almost instantaneously, because the administrative burden of making sure you are charging the right development number, the right production number, the right sustainment number, slows things down. And we know with coding, we’re getting feedback constantly. We want people to literally be able to update systems on the fly.”
The nine programs DoD is teeing up for the pilot will be a mix of software-intensive weapons systems and IT business systems across the military services and Defense agencies. Congressional appropriators would need to approve the idea of allocating funds into software-dedicated accounts before the department could proceed.