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Clinging to the Outdated Methods

The SEI conducts impartial technical assessments (ITAs) periodically for any packages that request them, taking a look at each technical and programmatic points. Such requests usually come from both packages which are experiencing challenges with delivering their methods or from exterior stakeholders to test on the progress that’s being made. In the midst of performing such an evaluation, the ITA crew might interview as many as 50 to 100 folks from the program administration workplace (PMO) workers, contractor workers, customers, and different exterior stakeholder organizations, all beneath assurance of anonymity. Interviewees typically give very open and candid responses, giving the crew perception into what is definitely taking place on a program and the power to realize a deep understanding of the pressures and incentives beneath which individuals are working.

One notable side of such assessments is that related issues come up throughout separate and dissimilar packages. The important thing questions that come up when conducting assessments of many alternative packages are “Why do a few of these adversarial behaviors maintain taking place throughout totally completely different packages?” and “Is there a strategy to cease them?” On this weblog put up, I focus on the recurring drawback in software program acquisition and improvement of what I name clinging to the outdated methods. I describe the habits within the context of a real-world situation and supply suggestions on recovering from and stopping future occurrences of this drawback. Future posts on this collection will discover different recurring issues.

About Acquisition Archetypes

The SEI’s work on all these recurring patterns of habits is predicated on our experiences doing assessments of enormous authorities packages, and employs ideas from methods considering to research dynamics which have been noticed in software program improvement and acquisition apply.

The Acquisition Archetypes, as we name them, are primarily based partially on the thought of the extra common methods archetypes. Acquisition Archetypes describe recurring patterns of failure noticed in acquisition packages with the intent of constructing folks conscious of them and their results and supply folks with approaches to mitigate or keep away from them. (See a number of the earlier SEI work in Acquisition Archetypes.)

Within the majority of instances, the incentives at work in acquisition packages don’t change a lot from program to program, and so are inclined to drive related behaviors throughout a variety of acquisition packages. Taken collectively, these incentives are analogous to the legal guidelines of physics for nature in that they drive the behaviors of all organizations.

The archetype I current on this put up is expounded to the introduction of a brand new expertise and methodology. I illustrate it within the context of utilizing DevSecOps as a result of it’s a newer portfolio of applied sciences that’s being utilized to key DoD acquisition packages. Nonetheless, this archetype would apply equally effectively to many different new, disruptive applied sciences—underscoring the purpose that regardless of the numerous modifications in expertise and the substantial variations throughout packages, the concepts underlying this archetype nonetheless apply.

Clinging to the Outdated Methods


There’s a completely different stress taking place inside acquisition packages that attempt to undertake new applied sciences and strategies: the technologists and engineers are thrown into battle with purposeful organizations which are unfamiliar with and unaccustomed to doing enterprise in a different way to assist the brand new expertise or methodology. These purposeful organizations usually resist the modifications that might improve velocity and safety. There could also be some reputable causes for this resistance. For instance, the present interpretation of the rules beneath which they function might prohibit sure choices or actions.

A tradition of doing issues the standard or conventional means as a substitute of embracing newer approaches and applied sciences can create schisms inside the program. These schisms should not stunning because it’s a serious tradition change to considerably evolve the strategies and insurance policies of any group. Modifications are being pushed by plenty of completely different new strategies and applied sciences—not simply DevSecOps, but in addition model-based methods engineering (MBSE), digital engineering, synthetic intelligence/machine studying, and others. I deal with DevSecOps on this put up as a result of it has demonstrated unprecedented enhancements in DoD fielding occasions and safety, but in addition introduces extra engineering complexity and requires extra coordination and talent.

Some engineers might anticipate everybody to leap onboard with the brand new expertise and are stunned after they don’t and gained’t. Some might imagine the functionals (the finance, authorized, safety, and contracting specialists) are old-fashioned and caught of their methods, or a number of the functionals might imagine the brand new expertise or methodology is a passing fad that has little to do with the best way they carry out their function. These opposing factors of view symbolize a cultural battle that stems from the expertise. The extra the engineers attempt to power change on the functionals, the more durable these elements of the group are prone to push again in opposition to these modifications.

An essential side of this battle is that there are two chains of command for functionals: one which goes to this system they’re working for, and one which goes again to the bigger group they’re part of (e.g., finance, acquisition, and so forth.). The extra revolutionary the technological change, the larger the impression on the functionals who must assist its enterprise points. For instance, within the context of cybersecurity, as a substitute of the safety functionals adapting the safety method to the brand new applied sciences, the technologists are sometimes compelled to make use of the older applied sciences that the safety individuals are extra accustomed to. This aversion to newer applied sciences additionally has to do with the normal approaches of many years in the past versus the approaches being utilized by engineers right this moment. The strain manifests in varied methods, resembling within the shift from waterfall to Agile/DevSecOps, or from conventional safety approaches to extra streamlined automated strategies, from monolithic certification on the finish of improvement to steady certification, and so forth.

This battle is finally resolved in certainly one of two methods: Both a point of change is finally effected to get functionals’ buy-in and assist for adapting the present processes to the brand new expertise, or the expertise adoption is deemed unsuccessful and could also be discarded (Determine 1).

Studies from the Area

One program that was adopting DevSecOps bumped into a wide range of points in supporting that method with the purposeful assist of acquisition, personnel, buying, and finance. As one official put it, “A part of the frustration on the acquisition facet is the shortage of DevSecOps understanding.”

Equally, one other workers member stated, “Some folks don’t have any expertise with DevSecOps earlier than, in order that they wrestle. The best way they method packages, they’re functionally aligned, and matrixed to them, so there’s a wrestle generally to translate their work of finance and contracts to the technical folks.”

One other went as far as to say, “The predominant danger within the DoD house is individuals who don’t perceive DevSecOps and DevSecOps contracting, saying that this fashion of constructing software program is illegal—and I’ve been on calls with three authorities attorneys about that, the place they had been arguing that it was unlawful to construct software program that means. There’s a DoD publication for constructing software program, and the way DoD buys software program. It’s all about waterfall—however nobody builds software program like that anymore. New memos have come out that make DevSecOps buying approaches lawful now, however there’s nonetheless a variety of concern on the market, and it’s onerous to persuade those that it’s OK.”

One officer identified that, “Now we have Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) insurance policies that haven’t modified in years, and acquisition has native insurance policies as effectively, and other people grow to be pissed off.” One other stated “In acquisition it’s so tough to make one thing occur, you grow to be proud of something you will get. They depart contractual stuff in place for a number of years with out evolving it—however we’d by no means try this on the technical facet. Persons are afraid to ask to do one thing in a different way.”

Whereas the speed of technical change appears to be growing, one workers member stated that lots of the functionals are “…nonetheless residing in a world the place individuals are extra snug with the outdated means of doing issues, and never as snug with doing issues in a brand new means with new expertise. So, it’s the shortage of willingness to make use of digital expertise that considerations me.” As one other acquisition official summed it up, “Nobody is taking a look at how acquisition should change to assist DevSecOps”—and so there’s a giant and rising hole between the technical workers and the functionals who assist them.

With safety, “It comes off as a Nineteen Eighties safety method. As an alternative of adapting the safety to the brand new applied sciences, they power you to make use of the older applied sciences that they’re accustomed to as a substitute.” One other admitted that whereas “We wish implementations to be sturdy when it comes to safety, we’ve tried to implement safety that folks both don’t perceive, don’t care about, or each. Most PMs (program managers), most SPDs (system program administrators) don’t perceive, and neither do the SCAs (safety management assessors) or AOs (authorizing officers).”

By way of finance, there are some apparent points in supporting DevSecOps. As one purposeful famous, “We settle for cash from different packages, 3400 (O&M) and 3600 (RDT&E). We couldn’t combine colours of cash, however you virtually have to with DevSecOps.”

Concerning contracting for knowledgeable DevSecOps workers, a contracting official stated “[The contractor] drives us loopy. They’re the most costly, they suppose they’re unicorns, and they also’re tough to barter. They comprehend it, and so they are available in excessive on their charges. As a PCO (procuring contracting officer), I have to decide if the worth is truthful and affordable—and you must justify that. Technical means is at all times extra essential than worth. Technical folks don’t perceive having to justify the usage of a specific vendor.”

Regardless of the clear have to do issues in a different way, one acquisition skilled said that “There are few acquisition people who find themselves true advocates of or champions for change. That development piece is lacking.” The bigger drawback is that “Everybody simply accepts the best way issues are. How are you going to change your processes with the intention to do it higher and quicker? We are able to’t be content material with what now we have. Now we have to be considering, what’s subsequent, and what can we make higher?”

In attempting to reply that query, one officer admitted that “The [functional] profession subject is extra about checking containers to get promoted. It’s going to take an overhaul in expertise administration and career-field administration to do this higher. You may as well assist to retrain some communities, however most likely not all.” For one officer, a key start line was acknowledging that “We should give you a method to assist DevSecOps. Folks want a baseline understanding of DevSecOps.” Going additional, one other officer acknowledged that an Agile-based and DevSecOps-like method might be utilized to the work of functionals as effectively, saying “We ought to be utilizing DevSecOps for functionals in the identical means that we’re already utilizing it for engineers/builders, by doing extra in the best way of automation of repetitive duties, and establishing a special tradition that’s extra revolutionary in utilizing the mechanisms that exist already. We might be doing for acquisition what DevSecOps is doing for software program improvement.”

Options and Mitigations

As a result of dual-reporting construction of functionals within the navy, some modifications required to allow full assist of a brand new expertise, resembling DevSecOps, should happen effectively above the extent of this system workplace trying to undertake it.

A part of the issue is that every service has barely completely different takes on how they interpret the FAR and Protection Federal Acquisition Regulation (DFAR) guidelines—and people guidelines are longstanding and rigorously enforced, regardless that they’re solely interpretations of the unique rules. Revisiting the unique rules usually reveals that they aren’t as restrictive as the next coverage interpretations had been—however years later these interpretations are nonetheless being rigidly utilized even after they not serve both the present altering surroundings or the unique regulation they had been meant to implement.

One instance is the necessity to do right budgeting 5 years upfront of each deliberate piece of labor divided throughout analysis, improvement, take a look at & analysis (RDT&E) versus operations and upkeep (O&M) expenditures, which characteristic virtually paralyzing guidelines concerning which kind of funding must be used for issues resembling direct replacements versus substitute upgrades. One other instance is the buying of software program licenses, the place there’s uncertainty concerning the allowed use of RDT&E versus O&M colours of cash within the first versus subsequent years of use. The cumulative impact is to constrain packages attempting to maneuver to extra versatile improvement fashions, resembling Agile and DevSecOps, and put their success in danger.

As alluded to earlier, contracting for knowledgeable DevSecOps workers might be tough. Likewise, staffing additionally performs a task within the profitable, or unsuccessful, adoption of DevSecOps. There are comparatively few DevSecOps engineers obtainable within the DoD, and DoD is immediately competing with trade when it comes to salaries and work surroundings when hiring that kind of expert expertise. Packages have difficulties staffing authorities billets with DevSecOps experience, missing applicable job classes and well-defined profession paths with adequate compensation, and forcing packages to backfill with contract workers—which presents its personal challenges. When navy and civilian workers are in a position to be employed and educated to work in DevSecOps roles, retention turns into a problem as business firms work to poach them from their authorities roles into what are sometimes extra profitable business positions. The federal government even acts in opposition to its personal pursuits by rotating extremely expert navy personnel out of DevSecOps positions to extra conventional (and infrequently much less fascinating) acquisition billets requiring extra routine abilities the place their hard-won DevSecOps experience might not be relevant, and quickly declines.

To deal with the coverage restrictions imposed on acquisition, finance, and contracting functionals, these workers must be educated in the usage of key new applied sciences resembling DevSecOps even when they’re in a roundabout way utilizing them, in order that they’re conscious of the problems, perceive them and the objectives, and are thus higher outfitted to advertise and allow the usage of the expertise. Technical workers also needs to grow to be extra conscious of the completely different points of acquisition. A few of this coaching content material ought to come from accumulating collectively the insights from the experiences of personnel in software program factories about the best way to finest use and leverage present insurance policies. A coaching curriculum alongside the traces of a DevSecOps for Managers ought to be the outcome, specializing in

  • software program lifecycle processes, acquisition methods, and the complete vary of various kinds of contracting autos
  • how present mechanisms and contractual autos might be utilized in revolutionary methods to assist DevSecOps
  • making present coaching on DevSecOps extra related
  • addressing the cultural and course of implications of DevSecOps adoption pertaining to acquisition
  • involving DevSecOps specialists in revolutionary coaching roles to show and construct new coursework

One other helpful method can be to institute an alternate program amongst acquisition, finance, and different purposeful workers working in several software program factories, in order that they may share and study completely different approaches which have been developed and utilized by different workers to deal with related points and conditions.

As a extra strategic repair, DoD ought to proceed to check extra of the coverage modifications which may be wanted on precise packages, primarily based on the sorts of key points they face. An instance of such a coverage experiment already occurring is the Finances Appropriation 8 (BA-8) software program funding single appropriation pilots, by which a single new appropriation class (colour of cash) is created that can be utilized for each RDT&E and O&M appropriations. Such an appropriation would imply that packages wouldn’t must finances particular quantities of RDT&E and O&M funding years upfront, doubtlessly limiting their means to spend funding as wanted in a DevSecOps improvement, the place the event and upkeep actions are tightly intertwined and tough to separate.

To deal with the problems of DevSecOps staffing over the long run, as this system workforce initially grows after which begins to show over, this system should interact in a big workforce enchancment and coaching or retraining exercise, and evolve towards a tradition that may retain such a complicated workforce:

  • Mentor navy officers in DevSecOps organizations with profitable trade DevSecOps leaders to be taught new management types for high-tech groups.
  • Survey the federal government and contractor workers commonly (and report back to management) on their morale and the diploma to which the specified DevSecOps tradition is being achieved, and take further steps to advertise the tradition if the metrics should not transferring within the route and on the velocity required.
  • Actively interact with native and regional universities to create a pipeline of future software program engineers with the DevSecOps abilities to assist the wants of this system throughout its lifespan.
  • Institute externship packages or rotations between authorities and protection or business trade companions to commonly advance the talent units of key software program improvement workers.
  • Advocate for brand new compensation charges which are extra applicable for hiring and retaining extremely expert DevSecOps positions (related to what’s finished for physicians, surgeons, pilot flight pay, and so forth.).
  • Advocate for devoted DevSecOps officer and civilian profession tracks past the normal software program profession fields.
  • Loosen up or receive waivers for navy rotations for expert DevSecOps officers and enlisted personnel to enhance continuity in groups.

Lastly, a extra controversial method is perhaps to align further monetary or efficiency incentives to functionals who efficiently subject their packages inside time/finances/high quality objectives, incentivizing total program efficiency in addition to coverage compliance.

The Outlook for DevSecOps Adoption

On this put up, I’ve seemed into one recurring program habits associated to the introduction of DevSecOps into the context of acquisition packages: a battle between builders and their supporting purposeful areas that aren’t accustomed to supporting this new means of creating software program.

Whereas it has many substantial advantages, DevSecOps has been—and for the foreseeable future will proceed to be—a robust however disruptive expertise with cooperation issues which are pervasive all through acquisition. A few of these issues can’t be handled on the particular person program degree and should require some vital coverage modifications throughout the DoD enterprise. The significance of DevSecOps to DoD software program improvement signifies that making the modifications to coverage to have the ability to totally assist it should be a precedence.

In my subsequent weblog put up on this collection, I’ll focus on intimately one other recurring archetypal drawback associated to DevSecOps adoption: vendor lock-in and the excessive value of switching distributors.



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