US Defence Needs New Software at the Centre of its Operations

Cloud adoption, software modernisation, Artificial Intelligence and cyber security are paramount to all US Defense Department (DoD) missions. Now, the CIA's Chief Technology Officer Nand Mulchandanand the former head of the Air Force's Project Maven want to take the Pentagon out of the industrial age and into the digital age.

The offices of the chief information officer, the under-secretaries of defense for acquisition and sustainment and research and engineering, as well as the software modernisation senior steering group are involved in efforts to operationalise the strategy.

A paper published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies calls for the US military to modernise legacy warfighting systems in order to prepare for future conflicts. The Report basically says that The Department of Defense must adopt new approaches to software design and architecture to help the US military maintain an operational advantage over global its opponents. The report called Software-Defined Warfare says that the architecture needed to develop and maintain the most advanced warfighting systems “lies in software.”

“One of the greatest challenges the DoD and other USs federal agencies face is that they were built from the ground up as industrial-age, hardware-centric organisations... Making the transition to digital age, software-centric, more risk-tolerant organisations is exceedingly difficult. But it is also the only path to future success." the report says.

The paper says that this type of software-defined warfare, where software is at the core of DoD’s operating model, will allow today's military hardware and weapons to better handle “all of the complexity of decision making, targeting and resourcing.”

The report outlines a series of core concepts that DOD should adopt as it works to design and support weapons and accompanying hardware, including moving from vertically-scaled architecture to a horizontally-scaled model that can distribute computing workloads across smaller systems. It goes on to recommend that the DoD should acquire or design “a massive number of cheap, disposable and easy-to-manufacture endpoint systems that it can concentrate, distribute and scale up or down as the need arises,” but that it would require almost no maintenance and could be easily remedied if a system breaks down.

“At the heart of all these large networks of systems, whether autonomous or manually controlled, will be complex, Internet-scale, highly available software that pulls everything together. The underlying software systems will help bind all the DOD’s people, weapons, logistics and intelligence,’ says the Report.

During a recent CSIS Event discussing the report’s release, the paper’s authors, the CIA's Nand Mulchandani and retired Air Force Lt. Gen. John Shanahan, said that DOD’s ability to adopt and optimise updated software and technologies, including Artificial Intelligence models, will help the US maintain a competitive footing with other countries that are modernising their warfighting systems.  

CSIS:     DefenseOne:     NextGov:     US DoD:     US DoD

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