The Department of Defense (DoD) is lacking in consistently implementing agile and modular contracting on a consistent basis, according to the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) “Weapon Systems Annual Assessment” published on June 8.

According to the assessment, the need for agile and modular contracting goes hand in hand to accelerate the department’s acquisition capacities as well as secure the process from possible cybersecurity threats.

“Most programs reported the use of modern software development approaches (which we defined as either Agile, DevOps, DevSecOps, or an iterative approach). However, these programs did not fully implement related practices recommended by the Defense Science Board, DoD guidance, or our past work,” the assessment says.

According to the assessment, many DoD programs have begun implementing agile and other modern software but GAO still found “eight programs that reported only using older software development approaches,” the assessment says.

While the DoD has been reporting a continued effort to implement the Defense Science Board recommendations and practices, there are also waning indications of their commitment.

“Despite DoD’s continued emphasis on improving software development in acquisition programs, several practices recommended by the Defense Science Board that we included in our prior assessments show declining trends from last year,” GAO says.

Some of the areas where the DoD has been declining in implementing software development recommendations include the use of software factory, delivery of minimum viable product, iterative development training for program managers and staff, as well as software documentation provided to the  Department of Defense at each production milestone.

According to GAO, the only area of improvement since the 2022 assessment was continuous iterative development.

At the same time, the report notes that the DoD has been lacking in its implementation of modular contracting that uses many agile solutions in its acquisition process.

“Eleven of the 45 programs, approximately 25 percent, reported using modular contracting for their software development efforts,” the assessment says.

The assessment concludes by giving an overarching recommendation that the DoD must “ensure that any new guidance and updates to relevant policies include details on when programs using a modular open systems approach should complete verification testing and how they should document planning.”

The DoD concurred with the recommendation.

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Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.