Coding the Future: Recommendations For Defense Software R&D
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The “Software as a Modernization Priority” workshop in November 2022 was hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association’s (NDIA) Emerging Technologies Institute (ETI) in collaboration with the Department of Defense’s (DoD) sole software-focused Federally Funded Research and Development Center, Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute (SEI). The workshop focused on the challenges and opportunities associated with ensuring that software capabilities provide a competitive advantage to national defense. Speakers and panelists discussed their experiences with how DOD and industry are developing new defense capabilities and transitioning those capabilities into operational use.
The workshop delved into key capabilities that lead to software advances for defense, and where government investments can yield the greatest economic and national security impact. While software is an area of increasing attention, developing an understanding of where the government, and the DoD in particular, can and must invest to ensure that U.S. military capabilities remain at the forefront of technological innovation is a complex task. Commercial drivers of software may offer new capabilities that DoD can adopt, but in other areas market pressures may be less clearly aligned with DoD objectives. DoD faces two challenges: to understand where it should lead and where it should be a fast follower, and to be postured to integrate and adopt advances that might result from either path.
The workshop examined both challenges from a government, technical, and market perspective. It began with an overview of DoD’s software science and technology (S&T) strategy, followed by a presentation summarizing a recent SEI report on trends in broader software engineering research and development (R&D). These presentations provided framing for two panel discussions, one featuring industry leaders offering their views on what DoD investments should look like, and the other representing perspectives on software acquisition challenges. The day concluded with a discussion among workshop participants to synthesize the discussion and resulting recommendations.