Air Force CSO official touts benefits of software factories focused on ‘niche’ work

By Briana Reilly / April 14, 2022 at 1:48 PM

A top Air Force software official said today the service will face challenges in setting limitations for military-owned and operated technology factories that support ongoing integration and delivery.

When it comes to those software factories, Maj. Christopher Olsen, the military deputy for the Air Force’s chief software officer, said the Air Force will need to put in place “institutional mechanisms” to figure out what work is appropriate to funnel to those operations and which capabilities are best to out-source “to the traditional contracting process to be done [through] the defense industrial base.”

Specifically, Olsen told an audience at Fedscoop’s Public Sector Innovation Summit in Arlington, VA, today that his office has found software factories are best suited for “solving problems with software that are within a certain kind of criteria, certain scale, certain size.”

Pointing to Kessel Run, the coding unit that delivers continuous software to primary customer Air Combat Command, Olsen said that factory’s work in “a niche area” surrounding specific missions and capabilities is “a great area for a software factory to be in.”

Kessel Run and ACC in fall 2021 struck the first user agreement involving an Air Force major command under the Defense Department’s new software acquisition policy. ACC has been the recipient of a variety of software applications including the Kessel Run All-Domain Operations Suite (KRADOS), a modernized package that’ll replace the legacy, decades-old Theater Battle Management Core System.

The software factory’s primary focus has been on modernizing and transitioning the battle management core system out of the Air Operations Center Weapon System.

“What we’re never going to have is a software factory producing all of the software and all the software engineering for, like, the F-35,” Olsen said. “That’s work well suited for the defense industrial base.”