Iraq war shows 'the need for speed' in software deployment

SALT LAKE CITY'Facing an enemy in Iraq that seems to morph daily, military IT leaders say they need speedier deployment of new systems. And they need funding flexibility to get it done.

'Five-year development cycles won't hack it with this kind of enemy,' said Sue Payton, deputy undersecretary of Defense for advanced systems and concepts. Speaking last week at the annual Systems and Software Technology Conference, she noted that Iraqi insurgency forces have shown an astonishing ability to change tactics.

As an example of the kind of speedy software delivery that's required, Payton cited the ability of robots to pick up and move to safety improvised explosives planted by terrorists'work that used to be done by soldiers wearing massive shock-resistant suits. That capability was developed and deployed since the start of the Iraq war.

John Ogg, director of the Air Force Materiel Command's Engineering Directorate, cited 'the need for speed in rapid delivery of new capabilities.' He pointed to the newly acquired, software-enabled ability of unmanned airplanes to deliver Hellfire missiles at close range.
But more than discrete functions, Ogg said, the military needs rapid integration of disparate systems.

'We need the interoperability of complex systems' across domains, he said.

Payton said in an interview that a big impediment to rapid software development and deployment is that often the required capabilities aren't preapproved for the programs of record, some of which date to the Cold War. Program managers must be able to easily move around funds to pay for new systems and systems enhancements without waiting on congressional approval.

'We need to reprogram on the fly,' Payton said.


  • business meeting (Monkey Business Images/

    Civic tech volunteers help states with legacy systems

    As COVID-19 exposed vulnerabilities in state and local government IT systems, the newly formed U.S. Digital Response stepped in to help. Its successes offer insight into existing barriers and the future of the civic tech movement.

  • data analytics (

    More visible data helps drive DOD decision-making

    CDOs in the Defense Department are opening up their data to take advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning tools that help surface insights and improve decision-making.

Stay Connected