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From:
Currie Colket <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Currie Colket <[log in to unmask]>
Date:
Fri, 21 Mar 1997 09:08:38 -0500
Content-Type:
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Dear Mr. Paige,

The response Robert Firth provided is right on. You misinterpreted his message
and took it as an insult. I did not get the impression he was trying to say the
folks in DoD are idiots. We have some very smart people in the DoD. However, by
in large, these people are poorly trained when it comes to acquiring software
intensive and software dependent systems.

Most DOD system acquisition managers do not have a sufficient understanding of
software acquisition issues to effectively make common sense tradeoffs during
the system/software acquisition/development process. Career progression favored
the advancement of electrical engineers, penalizing those skilled in
computer science/software engineering. Software professionals could not rise to
system management as they were not allowed to supervise electrical engineers.
This perhaps worked well in the 1960s and 1970s when the development of a system
was primarily hardware based and "code developers" frequently were little more
than high school educated. Unfortunately today our senior management must
develop systems that are primarily software based requiring extensive software
expertise.  Many in our senior management don't have the education and training
to make common sense tradeoffs regarding software issues. Ada is only one of the
many software issues where our senior managers have made poor decisions. As
career motivations for software professionals were poor and salaries in the
commercial side increased, many educated software professionals left the DoD;
today senior management typically has very limited software expertise within
their organization to draw on. Software expertise available has little
experience with systems engineering and little capability to make appropriate
system tradeoffs. This is compounded by the fact that software and hardware
technology has exploded in the last 20 years and even specialized software
expertise is needed in about 20 different disciplines for each project. The
result is that the DOD is not in the position of being a smart acquirer.
Acquisition managers have little expertise to assess the tradeoffs presented by
contractors and to determine which are in the best interest of the DoD and the
taxpayer. The lack of interdisciplinary capabilities in the system acquisition
process severely inhibits our ability to field effective software intensive and
software dependent systems.

This issue has no short term solution. The DOD needs to develop a career
progression for software engineering/computer science placing it on at least an
equal basis with the electrical engineering career progression. People with good
software skills need to be promoted to provide credibility within their
organizations. These acquisition organizations should be required to have
members with a bachelors/masters degree in computer science/software
engineering. System acquisition training should be required for software
acquisition professionals. As a stopgap measure, software acquisition training
is necessary for senior management. The most effective stopgap training is
provided via conferences such as the Software Technology Conference (STC), the
SEI Software Engineering Symposium, and the Tri-Ada conference. Attendance at
management tracks at these conferences should be strongly encouraged. There may
be some value to requiring all acquisition managers to attend the DAU Software
Acquisition Management (SAM) courses 201 and 301.

The attached strawman identifies one view of the training needs for a software
acquisition professional. As can be clearly seen, the Ada issue is really only
the tip of the iceberg. If our senior acquisition managers can not address the
Ada issue adequately, consider the impact of the other software acquisition
issues. Today our systems acquisition is performed by very intelligent people,
but untrained in software acquisition. This is the basis for Robert Firth's
remarks. Our situation is equivalent to needing a quadruple bypass and having
your highly skilled dentist perform the operation. Yes, the dentist is very
intelligent and highly trained, but not for the job at hand. There is no wonder
we have problems with so many of our acquisitions.


Respectively submitted,

Currie Colket
[log in to unmask]

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re: Reason for Mr. Paige's Decision Unclear
Author:  "Paige; Emmett Jr.; ; OSD/C3I +" <[log in to unmask]> at smtp-gw
Date:    3/14/97 3:38 PM


THIS ONE IS INSULTING TO A LOT OF SMART,INTELLIGENT FOLKS IN DOD THAT
HAVE AS MUCH EXPERIENCE AS  THE EDITOR AND MOST OF THE ADDRESSES. IT
STRESSES THAT THOSE WHO ARE IN DOD FOR WHATEVER REASON ARE IDIOTS WHO DO
NOT EVEN KNOW WHAT WE NEED OR TO TEST WHAT WE BUY.
I REJECT THAT NOTION FROM ANYONE. BEING IN ACADEMIA OR INDUSTRIA DOES
NOT TRANSLATE TO BEING THE SMARTEST AND MOST KNOWLEDGEABLE FOLKS IN THE
WORLD OR THIS COUNTRY. NOR THE STRONGEST OR MOST ABLE TO USE THEIR
BRAINPOWER. IINCOMPETENCE HAS NO BARRIERS AND IT CROSSES INTO ALL CAMPS
TO INCLUDE ACADEMIA AND INDUSTRY. AT LEAST GOVT AND INDUSTRY HAVE
AVENUES AVAILABLE TO ELIMINATE THOSE INDIVIDUAL WHEN THEY ARE
DISCOVERED.
   MY BETTER JUDGEMENT TOLD ME TO SIMPLY IGNORE AND NOT RESPOND TO YOUR
COMMENTS BELOW PARAGRAPH ONE, BUT YOU NEED TO KNOW THAT YOU ARE
INSULTING A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO ALSO PAY TAXES JUST AS YOU DO AND THERE IS
NO REASON OR ANYTHING THAT GIVES YOU THE RIGHT TO ATTACK THEM OR INFER
THAT WE HAVE A GOVT WORKFORCE OF INCOMPETENTS.
MAY GOD BLESS YOU ANYWAY.

 ----------
From: [log in to unmask]
To: Paige, Emmett Jr., , OSD/C3I +
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Subject: Re: Reason for Mr. Paige's Decision Unclear
Date: Friday, March 14, 1997 1:03PM


Folks

As you probably recall, I've been unhappy with the "Ada Mandate" for
many, many years.  I'm also in the camp that says the customer should
decide the WHAT, and the contractor should decide the HOW.  If the
customer wants reliability and maintainability, then if Ada is indeed
the best means to effect these ends, Ada will be chosen.  And if Ada
is *not* the best means, it won't be chosen, which is exactly right.

However, that said, the present situation finds me deeply distressed.
For I believe that what is going to happen is that the DoD will abandon
its insistence on the HOW, and replace it, not with an insistence on
the WHAT, but rather with nothing.

Will future software products delivered to the DoD be assessed for
reliability, maintainability, and the other *essential* -ilitites?
I rather think not.  I see no evidence that the DoD has any competence
in such assessments, nor much evidence it even realises it *needs*
such competence, and very badly.

Even if such products were assessed, would the assesment have teeth?
Can we really visualise the DoD rejecting a software product that
bears a billion dollars of sunk cost, merely because it doesn't work?
Look at the track record.  Even within the Ada world, how many cases
can we all cite of DoD funded developments that continued to eat funding
long after it was palpably obvious they would never work?

Again, I fear that such projects will be deemed "too big to fail", "too
critical to fail", "too visible to fail", and the assessment will be
fudged to allow us to pretend that failure is success.

If the Ada mandate is to be abandoned, it must be replaced with
something *more* effective at ensuring the DoD receives software
that has the attributes necessary to support its mission.  In particular,
the software acceptance criteria must be comprehensive, rigorous, *and
enforced by an independent authority*.  An authority with the power, and
the clout, of, for instance, the range safety officer at a missile
test station.

Without at least this much, I fear we are indeed heading back into
the quagmire.

Yours
Robert Firth



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