GAO to DOD: Look to industry for cues on software development

GAO to DOD: Look to industry for cues on software development

The General Accounting Office went looking for the best industry practices and metrics to help guide the Defense Department's software acquisition staff toward better management of software-intensive weapons programs.

DOD program managers can strengthen the department's software buys if they follow the practices in use at leading companies, the audit agency said today in a new report.

For instance, GAO recommended that DOD:

  • Make sure agreements document baseline requirements

  • Meet with application developers for regular reviews during an app's development

  • Obtain metrics from the developer to manage a program after delivery.

  • In a review of five major weapons programs, GAO found two systems flourished, but the other three experienced cost and schedule overruns because of significant problems with software development.

    The F/A-18 C/D, a fighter and attack aircraft, and the Tactical Tomahawk missile emulated the best practices of software development companies and, as a result, were 'very successful in meeting initial cost and schedule estimates,' the report said.

    Meanwhile, GAO reported, software snafus stalled the F/A-22, an air and ground attack aircraft; Space-Based Infrared System, a missile-detection satellite system; and Comanche, the multimission helicopter whose development the Army recently canceled.

    The programs have since been restructured, according to GAO and DOD, and the department has set more useful controls for overseeing software development.

    Still, 'before restructuring the programs, neither the DOD program managers nor the software developers for these programs had a process with reliable reviews and deliverables to reduce development risk,' GAO said.

    The Defense Department mostly agreed with the GAO report, saying GAO had provided useful feedback and insight. The department, in a written response, also noted that the findings dovetail with current efforts to revitalize the state of software development practices across Defense acquisition organizations.

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