Software modernization and cloud migration go hand in hand for DOD

Danielle Metz speaks at the Pentagon, Jan. 27, 2021. (DoD photo by Army Staff Sgt. Kent Redmond)

Cloud migration and software modernization go hand in hand for the Department of Defense, according to a top technology official.

The department recently minted a new software modernization strategy, published in February, aimed at developing an enterprise approach to building software. That strategy replaced the 2018 cloud strategy as well.

The reason the Pentagon didn’t create a standalone cloud strategy is because officials sees the two initiatives as closely linked.

“I don’t think it really makes a lot of sense to separate software modernization from cloud adoption because it would imply that software could be modernized without cloud,” Danielle Metz, deputy chief information officer for information enterprise at the DOD, said Tuesday during a virtual event hosted by Federal News Network.

“Starting in late 2019, we began a very measured strategic shift to software modernization being the primary driver for why we wanted people to go to the cloud, why we wanted to move the department to go to the cloud. It was really the rationale for why the systems needed to go to the cloud.”

Placing cloud adoption at the center of the strategy affirms its importance, she explained.

Moreover, much of what the department is trying to do with software modernization in the digital infrastructure arena involves enterprise services. The biggest effort there is the new Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC), which essentially replaced the ill-fated Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure.

JWCC “truly is going to be an enterprise cloud service for the entire department that will provide the full complement of what is currently missing in terms of requirements from unclassified to top secret to tactical edge cloud infrastructure associated services,” Metz said.

The Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability is being managed by the Defense Information Systems Agency. The main focus will be so-called “Fourth Estate” organizations such as defense agencies and field activities and components in the Pentagon, but the military branches will be able to leverage it as well.

“As those individual cloud contracts term expire, JWCC is available for use. They don’t have to go out and do their own. There is trade space and flexibility to allow for an optimization of enterprise services,” she said.

Colorless money

Pilot efforts underway at the department are helping to shape financial policies going forward for more agile use of DevSecOps, a critical component for software modernization.

Currently, under what is commonly referred to as the “color of money,” the military has certain pots or buckets of funds to use for specifically designated things such as sustainment, procurement, or research and development.

These “colors” have “been hamstringing us in on how we’re going to do DevSecOps,” Metz said.

“There’s a blending of development, operations and security, but our money and how we use our money isn’t affording us to do that,” she said.

“What we have to figure out is from the results of the pilot, how are we going to transform those policies in order for us to be able not to have exceptions and not have oversight? I think it’s that sweet spot balancing the ability to go fast without sacrificing accountability.”

The DOD isn’t ready to share with Congress how well these pilots have worked thus far, Metz said, adding that time is needed to execute them.

Metz said she hopes within the next year the department will be in a better position to make the effort come to fruition.