When Is it Feasible (or Desirable) to Use the Software Acquisition Pathway?

April, 2022
IDA document: D-33047
FFRDC: Systems and Analyses Center
Type: Documents
Division: Cost Analysis and Research Division
David M. Tate, John E. Bailey See more authors
DOD Instruction 5000.87 establishes a Software Acquisition Pathway (SWP) “for the efficient and effective acquisition, development, integration, and timely delivery of secure software.” Under SWP, programs are required to deliver a Minimum Viable Capability Release (MVCR) deployed to an operational environment within one year of initial funding. This MVCR must be secure and suitable for operational deployment and must enhance warfighting capability. This paper discusses the challenge of determining for a software development effort whether the minimum capabilities that meet these criteria and enable ongoing agile development can plausibly be developed, tested and operationally deployed in less than a year. We use a standard software cost and schedule model to derive bounds on the size of software that can be developed and ready to field in 12 months. The study concludes that many DOD software acquisitions will require too much development effort for the MVCR to comply with the SWP deadline if SWP is used from program initiation. We propose some criteria the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment might use to determine whether the SWP is appropriate for a particular new or existing program or software development project. We also consider development strategies that might improve the chances of success in using the SWP, including how non-SWP programs and projects should be architected if the intent is to later transition to SWP.