(U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Kip Sumner) F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team pilot and commander, performs the "dedication pass" maneuver during an aerial performance at the 2021 Arctic Lightning Air Show, Aug. 1, 2021, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.

IT Infrastructure

Software reform tops Air Force acquisition nom's priorities

Improving how the service acquires software and IT systems, while making DevSecOps the norm ranks among the top priorities for the Biden administration's pick to be the Air Force's chief weapons buyer.

"There is a clear need today to adapt our processes to enable better software acquisition and cybersecurity," Andrew Hunter, the White House nominee to be assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, told senators in responses to policy questions for his Oct. 5 confirmation hearing, testifying that "cybersecurity works best when you make it part of the design."

"We need to approach the acquisition of software and software intensive systems, which are providing many of the cutting edge new capabilities for our military, from a different vantage point with alternative approaches and alternative tools," Hunter testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Hunter's comments come in the wake of the resignation of the Air Force's first chief software officer, Nicolas Chaillan. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said Chaillan's departure "highlighted a growing concern and frustration over the lack of investment in new technologies to enable joint command and control," along with workforce challenges in "recruiting and retaining talent at critical positions."

Rounds asked Hunter how to address Chaillan's concerns, adding that the current acquisition process and bureaucracy was "limiting innovation today."

Hunter, who was previously a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said that if confirmed, he plans to focus on deciphering which acquisition pilots and authorities work, as well as bolstering and educating the workforce on tools such as other transaction authorities.

"It is simply the case that when you're doing software acquisition with the pace of change in that technology, our systems that were designed for a more industrial type of development approach, really struggle with doing that," Hunter said.

Hunter also noted that developing IT business systems was integral for every service and lessons learned must be shared. Part of achieving that means finding was to collaborate with the Air Force CIO and other services "on ways to harness software development innovation, including institutionalizing DevSecOps to address security issues early on in the development life cycle of our systems."

But the top IT priority remains getting software through faster: "The Department of the Air Force's approach to the acquisition of software and software- intensive systems must enable the regular upgrade of these systems in weeks and months, not years," Hunter wrote.

This article first appeared on FCW, a Defense Systems partner site. 

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.

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