Air Force rolls out PEO Digital

Agile development By Kalakruthi shutterstock image ID: 516494164 

Software development is taking center stage in Air Force acquisition reforms, officials said at the Air Space Cyber conference on Sept. 18.

At a panel discussion, Air Force acquisition heads emphasized the importance of rapid prototyping acquisition authority, described in Section 804 of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, particularly regarding software development.

USAF also announced Sept. 17 that it is taking a different approach to software acquisition, redesignating Program Executive Office Battle Management as PEO Digital headed by Steve Wert.

Wert said that Section 804 was "amazing" for agile software development where the end user helps shape and iterate the capability, because it allows fielding of minimally viable products in a few months.

"We've actually made a lot progress in some innovative contracting and even cybersecurity, but operational tests remain a bit of a challenge. One of the things we have to recognize when we're using agile DevOps, we're actually testing more not less" because of working directly with the end user, Wert said.

The Air Force's pathfinder software lab, Kessel Run for the Combined Air Operations Center during military events, has proved the Defense Department can do continuous software updates, such as extreme programming and test-driven development, providing a template for other programs. Personnel, Recovery Command and Control is now pushing updates to three sites every two weeks and fielding capabilities. Additionally, the Air Force's Unit Command and Control system was speedily migrating to cloud.

In other Air Force acquisition news, the service's Space and Missile Systems Center is considering adding a slew of deputy program executives imbued with the full decision power of the PEO.

Lt. Gen. John Thompson, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, Air Force Space Command, said the reorganization would cut the number of decision levels in half to three and is considering a new PEO model that would redistribute authority from the single PEO authority to multiple deputies.

"How you structure an organization has a lot to do with how you execute the programs," Thompson said. "We've got to get away from these models where there's one program executive officer and 5,000 action officers beneath. Our teams, our program directors, other senior staff have got to be in the mode of decision-making all the time."

Thompson said "if that means adding deputy PEOs with full PEO authority, then that's something we should consider and are [considering] under SMC 2.0."

While the organization chart isn't finalized, Thompson said staff, not programs, would sit at the bottom in an effort to heighten accountability.

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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