WASHINGTON — The U.S. Defense Department is creating a new position to help formulate its software strategy and ensure it keeps pace with commercial advancements — and the most important resposiblity will be overseeing the F-35 joint strike fighter’s agile software strategy.
During a Friday roundtable with reporters, Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, announced that she has tapped Jeff Boleng to the newly created position of special assistant for software acquisition.
Boleng, currently the acting chief technology officer at Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute, will start April 16 as a member of Lord’s team.
“Jeff Boleng will spend over 90 percent of his time on F-35. He is going to be the individual who is working amongst all of the groups to enable us to bring the right talent onboard,” Lord said.
“We have a challenge, I think both within the JPO [F-35 joint program office] as well as Lockheed Martin, in terms of getting a critical mass of contemporary software skill sets to begin to move in the direction we want to.”
As the F-35 joint program office embarks on a new strategy called Continuous Capability Development and Delivery, or C2D2, which involves introducing agile software development, Lord wants to ensure that both the JPO and Lockheed have employees with the right training to execute the effort and that they can attract new professionals with additional software expertise.
“This is something that [Lockheed CEO] Marillyn Hewson and I have talked about,” she said. “Lockheed Martin has some excellent software capability throughout the corporation. My expectation is that they’re going to leverage that on the F-35. And as we within the Department of Defense really increase our capability for software development focused on C2D2, our expectation is that Lockheed Martin will do the exact same thing.
“So they have the capability. I’m very energized about the leadership focus that I have seen in the last four to eight weeks, so I have great expectations that that will continue and that Lockheed Martin will keep pace or outpace DoD in terms of modernization for F-35 software development.”
Boleng, a former cyberspace operations officer and software engineer who served more than 20 years with the Air Force, last held the position of teaching computer science at the Air Force Academy before moving to the private sector.
At Carnegie Mellon, he is responsible for spearheading the institutes research and development portfolio, which includes software development, data analytics and cyber security activities in support of the Defense Department.
As the special assistant for software acquisition, he will help develop department-wide software development standards and policies and “advise department leadership on latest best practices in commercial software development.”
Boleng will also interface with Pentagon organizations charged with ramping up the department’s software prowess such as Defense Digital Services, a small group of former private-sector tech professionals who led the department’s “Hack the Pentagon” events and have conducted a few assessments of F-35 software.
That starts with a meeting today between Lord, Boleng and a Defense Innovation Board group centered on software acquisition, which has been embedded both with the joint program office and Lockheed Martin, Lord said.
Valerie Insinna is Defense News' air warfare reporter. She previously worked the Navy/congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.