Discussions of how the Pentagon can become a better consumer and a more responsible custodian of taxpayer money are – not without cause – a common refrain these days. So it isn’t really surprising when one comes upon yet another bureaucratic or institutional failing within DoD. A conference on Unmanned Systems hosted by the Center for Technology and National Security Policy at the National Defense University immediately began hitting on a series of issues right with the first panel. This was a panel discussion that spent time on a refreshingly short and simple word: reuse:
- Industry has continued to develop platform-specific software packages essentially from the ground-up – and is certainly happy to continue to charge DoD for the favor.
- DoD spends money on the right to use and reuse software and data associated with the systems that it buys. But does it know and understand those rights? Either way, as a matter of practice, it does not exercise them enough and should be.
- Program managers are not incentivized to expend much effort on investigating potential opportunities to reuse software that has already been developed.
- DoD spends money on and completes research and development. But those research and development programs, particularly those with significant classified aspects, have a way of disappearing once they get completed in a file drawer and on a server somewhere. Often there is little more than a place-holder webpage for the initial scope of the program at the outset. Not only are the products of or lessons learned from the programs inaccessible, but their very existence is known far more narrowly than their applicability. As a result, the products and lessons of that research are often not made part of the requirements writing process and later elements of programmatic and acquisition efforts.
While DoD funds cutting-edge technology it has proven to be all too often a lagging or late adaptor of new technology. We’re seeing a lot of powerpoint slides these days with common and open architectures. But how much progress has there really been in this regard? How has the fielding of the Aegis open architecture been going? Have we bought into the right concept and if we have, how are we really doing in terms of implementation?