We look forward to the new year and new opportunities for innovation and growth in the government contracting community. This past year, the public and private sectors both experienced more emphasis and demand for cybersecurity, merging technology with health care, and how to best mitigate the insider threat.
As a part of an annual series, WashingtonExec reached out to those most knowledgeable and experienced in the federal contracting space. We asked executives in and around the Beltway for insight on the direction they see in the industry. Topics discussed include M&A activity, public/private sector collaboration, cloud computing migration, the incoming millennial workforce in defense/IT/health care, talent retention and more.
Next in the series is Todd Probert, vice president for mission support and modernization at Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services, on what’s to come this year in military contracting.
Try to remember life all the way back in the dark ages of 2007. It’s not that long ago, really, but just 12 years ago, I carried around a BlackBerry that could only make calls and send emails. I read paper books. I used one of those really clunky dashboard GPS units to navigate. I owned an enormous digital camera that I was really proud of.
Fast forward to today and every one of those capabilities — plus thousands and thousands of others — is provided through an app on my smartphone. Silicon Valley completely changed the way consumers buy technology. People don’t want disconnected, single-use technologies anymore. We want everything connected to the internet, and we want to be able to download new capabilities and upgrades instantly. Right now, even your toaster can tell your refrigerator that it needs to order more bread while simultaneously installing the latest security patch.
Despite what’s become standard for consumers, the world’s most advanced military is still challenged to connect and upgrade the capabilities of its huge array of systems. That’s just not sustainable. Before the military can start tackling huge technological leaps like artificial intelligence, the Defense Department and its major suppliers have to change the way we develop weapon systems.
I see 2019 as the point when we really start moving away from developing and buying proprietary, stove-piped, closed hardware systems and instead look to the commercial software world as a model for how we develop new military capabilities.
DOD is already testing out some pilot programs along these lines. The Air and Space Operations Center Pathfinder program is a perfect example: The Air Force, working with Silicon Valley software company Pivotal and Raytheon, is using modern, commercial software development processes to quickly develop and load new apps into the Air Force command and control system instead of building new, single-use systems the way we would have done in the past.
These apps are easy to develop, easy to upgrade and are built using direct input from the end-user. This process means our airmen are getting new capabilities when they need them, and Air Force command and control systems are constantly being upgraded and secured to stay ahead of the threat.
I think 2019 will be the year we move past these pilot programs and expand that software-focused development process across the military. Focusing on commercial-style software development is how we’ll be able to develop truly open, upgradeable, cyber-resilient systems quickly and cost-effectively.
And by quickly, I’m saying weeks or months for a new capability, not years or decades. The pace of technology is moving faster than ever before, especially in the software world. We need to accept that and move with it if we want to stay ahead.