DOD Information Technology:

Software and Systems Process Improvement Programs Vary in Use of Best Practices

GAO-01-116: Published: Mar 30, 2001. Publicly Released: Mar 30, 2001.

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Several Department of Defense (DOD) components have software and systems process improvement (SPI) programs that are aligned closely to the best practices embodied in the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) IDEAL model and thus provide excellent examples of SPI. Elsewhere in DOD, however, such programs are lacking. Where they do exist, these programs are being credited with producing higher quality software and systems products faster and at less expense, whether managed in a centralized or decentralized fashion. The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) has an important leadership role to play in expanding SPI across the department. In particular, it can seize opportunities to build upon and leverage the existing base of SPI programs within DOD's components and help ensure that all of its components realize the strategic value (i.e., benefits that exceed costs) that both private and public-sector organizations, including some DOD components, attribute to these programs. Although OSD faces funding choices among competing leadership initiatives, such as its efforts to conduct software acquisition maturity assessments and collect software metrics, these are some of the very tasks that are embedded within an effective SPI program. Thus, by ensuring that DOD components have effective SPI programs, OSD can leverage programs to indirectly accomplish its other high-priority initiatives as well.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To strengthen DLA, Marine Corps, and Navy software and systems development, acquisition, and engineering processes, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Director of Defense Logistics Agency, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Secretary of the Navy to establish SPI programs where this report shows none currently exist. In so doing, these officials should consider following the best practices embodied in the SEI IDEAL model and drawing from the experiences of the Army, Air Force, Defense, and some Navy units.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics) and the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence) jointly issued a memorandum to the Director of the Defense Logistics Agency and the heads of all military departments to establish process improvement programs to improve the acquisition of information technology systems.

    Recommendation: Further, to strengthen DOD-wide SPI, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Controls, Communications, and Intelligence, in collaboration with the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, to (1) issue a policy requiring DOD components that are responsible for systems/software development, acquisition, or engineering to implement SPI programs and (2) develop and issue SPI guidance and, in doing so, consider basing this guidance on the SEI IDEAL model and the positive examples of SPI within the Army, Air Force, DFAS, and some Navy units cited in this report.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics) and the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence) jointly instructed the military departments and other components that procure or develop information technology systems to establish process improvement programs to improve the acquisition of information technology systems. Each departmental and component program is to define and apply a methodology, including metrics, to determine and report the status of process adherence and performance effectiveness. The department also issued interim guidance and expectations for developing and implementing these programs.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary for Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence to (1) annually determine the components' compliance with the SPI policy and (2) establish and promote a means for sharing SPI lessons learned and best pratices knowledge throughout DOD.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics) Software Intensive Systems unit has an existing steering group that has been given responsibility for overseeing SPI programs. Each identified component is to establish a program and brief its status to the steering group. The steering group is expected to monitor the programs on an ongoing basis. In addition, the group is to recommend further guidance and identify best practices that can be institutionalized within the department and act as a clearinghouse for information on lessons learned and best practices.

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