The U.S. Department of Defense is undergoing a major transformation as it aligns its technology capabilities with its defense strategy of being a more lethal, resilient, and rapidly innovating Joint Force. The transformation is not only a digital one, but a cultural shift. Its IT leaders are working hard to define best practices and bolster collaboration with industry partners so they can tackle massive and complex IT projects while adopting an agile approach to procurement and software development, using tools such as DevOps.
“The need for speed is a clear driver across the government,” according to Dave Broadbent, vice president of Contracts and Supply Chain for Raytheon Intelligence, Information, and Services. “Threats are evolving faster than ever therefore new capabilities must evolve at the speed of relevance.”
The DoD can no longer wait years for projects to be completed using the traditional software waterfall approach to development. As adversaries are moving quickly and using emerging technologies, the military must also seek new agile approaches to development to innovate and win wars in any dimension.
One example of this approach in action is for the U.S. Air Force Air and Space Operations Center Weapon Systems (AOC WS). With over 22 disparate sites across the globe, the USAF was using a traditional waterfall approach to developing and updating software for all critical missions. “With this traditional approach they found themselves five years out of date by the time they could use the capability,” said Broadbent.
Working with Pivotal Software, the Raytheon team introduced a DevOps approach to the program, which required the customer, users, programmers, and developers to come together in one location “to break down the acquisition process to more manageable bites.” This approach allowed for greater collaboration and, according to Broadbent, “together we could look at smaller software problems, break them down, decide the priorities and how we were going to address them together. Working in shorter ‘sprint’ development cycles, in a virtual cloud environment, we could debug it, test it, and certify it very quickly so it was ready for operational deployment.”
Similarly, Raytheon’s Air Soldier team is working with Pivotal Software to bring this approach to coding military software for mobile apps. The team is replacing the bulky, single-purpose mission planning computers used by Army Black Hawk helicopter flight crews with Android-based mobile phones and tablets that will help warfighters stay connected in combat.
Raytheon is introducing this approach across the military by launching a virtual software factory to help DoD and other customers kick-start the adoption of a DevOps approach across programs. “We’ve been looking at the commercial approach to software factories and are taking this model to the government defense environment,” Broadbent told us.
The “pipeline-in-a-box” is a cloud-based toolset that automates all the steps in the software delivery process. According to the company, “it can start integrating code, run automated tests, check for cyber vulnerabilities and deploy software to production. Because it is virtual, the toolset can easily be used at any of the company’s facilities without special equipment or new construction.” In addition to the tools, the company is building hubs in many of its facilities to maximize collaboration and more advanced coding, the first of which will be built in Raytheon’s Indianapolis factory.
To further enable customers to move quickly, Raytheon has identified an ecosystem of partners within the supply chain to provide new innovative software development approaches. With these partnerships already in place, Raytheon can quickly move into action avoiding lengthy procurement processes.