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US Navy Naval Information Warfare Systems commander notes need for software development cultural shift

The US Navy (USN) shift towards the development, security, and operations (DevSecOps) mindset of updating software used in the commercial world will require a “cultural change”, according to Rear Admiral Douglas Small, commander of the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command.

“DevSecOps, the cloud, platforms – all are necessary, infrastructure-wise,” Rear Adm Small said on 19 October during a keynote address at the American Society of Naval Engineers Fleet Maintenance and Modernization Symposium 2021.

“It's bringing developers and users together in a fast-moving cycle of software development and sustainment, so much so that the line blurs between what is development and what is sustainment,” Rear Adm Small said.

It offers benefits from an acquisitions perspective, he noted. Rather than waiting for several years for large baseline developments that yield a new capability, the USN can get smaller and more frequent software updates.

“That's the way the world works now,” he said. “We need to adopt that. It is a huge undertaking.”

“There's a reason why the rest of the world-class commercial industries develop software this way. If there wasn't an incentive, they wouldn't do it. The incentive is smaller, changes more often, with incredibly high quality. When you have smaller changes, you can test the snot out of them, much better than you can with a multi-year baseline that goes through multiple stages of testing,” he added.

He said that the move towards such thinking has created tension in the USN. “People think, ‘Oh My God, we're going so fast.' Yeah – with really small changes.”

Making incremental changes could not only make modernisation of systems easier; that kind of mindset could also change the way the USN assesses such traditional upgrades, he added.

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