The FY18 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) directs the Secretary of Defense to task the Defense Innovation Board “to undertake a study on streamlining software development and acquisition regulations.”

“Software is assessed among the most frequent and most critical challenges, driving program risk on ~60% of acquisition programs.” – Defense Science Board, 2018 Report

U.S. national security increasingly relies on software to execute missions, integrate and collaborate with allies, and manage the defense enterprise. The ability to develop, procure, assure, deploy, and continuously improve software is thus central to national defense. At the same time, the threats that the United States faces are changing at an ever-increasing pace, and the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) ability to adapt and respond is now determined by its ability to develop and deploy software to the field rapidly. The current approach to software development is broken and is a leading source of risk to DoD: it takes too long, is too expensive, and exposes warfighters to unacceptable risk by delaying their access to tools they need to ensure mission success. Instead, software should enable a more effective joint force, strengthen our ability to work with allies, and improve the business processes of the DoD enterprise.

Countless past studies have recognized the deficiencies in software acquisition and practices within DoD, but little seems to be changing. Rather than simply reprint the 1987 Defense Science Board (DSB) study on military software that pretty much said it all, the Defense Innovation Board’s (DIB’s) congressionally mandated study1 on Software Acquisition and Practices (SWAP) has taken a different approach. By engaging Congress, DoD, Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs), contractors, and the public in an active and iterative conversation about how DoD can take advantage of the strength of the U.S. commercial software ecosystem, we hope to move past the myriad reports and recommendations that have so far resulted in little progress. Past experience suggests we should not anticipate that this report will miraculously result in solutions to every obstacle we have found, but we hope that the two-year conversation around it will provide the impetus for figuring out how to make the changes for which everyone is clamoring.

Report Materials:

SWAP Vignettes:

SWAP Concept Papers:


The Defense Innovation Board submitted their final SWAP report to Congress on 3 May 2019.  Shortly thereafter, the Department transitioned into the implementation phase of the top ten recommendations highlighted by the DIB.  To commemorate the one year anniversary of the SWAP Report, the Department is focusing on the progress being made across the Services and support agencies, the latest language from the 2020 NDAA, and the new Software Acquisition Pathway Interim Policy and Procedures, with several events.   

The first group of events includes videoed, roundtable discussions with members of the Services, Senior Leaders, Program Office representatives, and industry, links provided below.  Follow-on events will include workshops, a wargaming event, DAU Mission Assistance Workshops, culminating with the annual DAU Acquisition Training Symposium.  For further information on upcoming events, please check back often or contact Sandy O’Dea, [email protected] 

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