Bad software represents "self-inflicted information warfare"

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah—- The Defense Department needs to bring new order and discipline to software acquisition, development and maintenance or face serious consequences in future wars, according to D. Patricia Sanders, DOD's director of test, systems engineering and evaluation.

Software has become key to new military policies and tactics "that exploit the potential of information technology," said Sanders, the keynote speaker here at the tenth annual Software Technology Conference. "[The concept] of full-spectrum dominance is predicated on knowledge sharing."

Despite the increasing importance of IT and software-based platforms—- Sanders estimated that electronic systems may account for one-third the cost of new, high-performance aircraft—- DOD has a poor software track record, she said. A recent DOD study of major software development projects showed an "average 36-month slip in the schedule," Sanders said, with "one-third canceled before completion."

DOD software developers need to give up an attitude that "software is easy to change" and instead focus on the fact that "software defects are the most expensive of all defects to fix," Sanders said.

While the press and top Pentagon managers have focused on recent hacker attacks against DOD networks as examples of serious information warfare threats, Sanders believes a greater threat lies within DOD itself. U.S. military forces cannot perform their future IT-enhanced missions "unless the software works," she said.

"Software that does not work," Sanders said, "is self-inflicted information warfare."

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