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Forge.mil brings net-centric speed to software development
Defense Information Systems Agency
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Over the past few years, the Defense Department has increasingly relied on online communications to speed its response time and increase its agility, an approach that has been termed network-centric warfare. The Defense Information Systems Agency's Forge.mil intranet site brings that speed and connectivity to the field of software development.
"We've focused on providing a net-centric operational development, but we haven't given the developers the tools [before now] to effectively build out and rapidly deploy net-centric systems," said Rob Vietmeyer, Forge.mil's project director.
The idea behind Forge.mil is to provide an online meeting place for military agencies to build software in a collaborative fashion. By offering this environment as a network-based service, DISA eliminates the need for the developers to set up their own environments, which, especially if the participants are geographically dispersed, can be a complicated endeavor.
The site is accessible by DOD personnel and supporting contractors. Recently, a second version of was stood up for classified projects to run on the Secret IP Router Network. About 2,200 personnel have accessed the site, and about 500 individuals contribute to the development of new software.
The site hosts about 93 projects, with about four new ones coming on board each week. New projects include the National Senior Leader Decision Support System, a portal to provide a common shared picture for senior Defense officials, and an extension for the Firefox browser to provide Common Access Card log-on capability.
As an open repository, Forge.mil could cut down on duplication of effort, as services could check to see if a component has already been developed elsewhere before commissioning it anew, Vietmeyer said. The services could focus on developing components, rather than entire systems. Each component could be fielded at its own pace, without holding up progress of any given system as a whole.
The repository could also hold software code that was developed for the government and could be reused by government according to the original licensing agreement. A lot of software is available for reuse, but tends not to be used because agencies do not know it is available.
Forge.mil actually comprises a number of elements, each dealing with some aspect of the development process. "We're trying to build out a piece at a time," Vietmeyer said. SoftwareForge is the repository for public projects. ProjectForge will hold the application life cycle management tools, such as version control and bug-tracking, which can be used a service by other services for a fee. CertificationForge will provide a workflow process for certifying applications in Common Criteria or other government certification programs. TestForge will provide an on-demand testing environment for trying out new applications, and StandardsForge will provide a central meeting place for different service efforts to interact with standards bodies.
Eventually, Forge.mil will offer developers the capabilities of running their test builds on DISA's Rapid Access Computing Environment. This, in effect, offers an entire cloud-based development and testing environment for military developers.