C4ISRNET Editor in Chief Mike Gruss speaks with Pentagon and Space Command officials on the transformation to a high-tech, digital-forward force.

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department’s chief software officer is leaning into recent military initiatives that train troops to write code as part of the Pentagon’s efforts to modernize its digital infrastructure and more rapidly respond to threats.

Rob Vietmeyer, who works for the Pentagon’s chief information officer, pointed to the creation of Army and Marine Corps software factories as the Defense Department moves to build platforms that enable continuous updates in a shift away from its previous acquisition-centric approach.

“In the past, we’ve focused on acquisitions of product systems, acquisition of things, and now the focus is on not the end state, but the means for production,” Vietmeyer told C4ISRNET at the publication’s annual conference on Wednesday. “We’re focusing on software factories, platform engineering and cloud components.”

Recognizing the need for more skilled cyber employees, Army Futures Command established in 2021 a software factory in Austin to train soldier coders within its own ranks. More recently, the Marine Corps followed suit, opening up its own software factory in the same city in March.

“We’re seeing this whole blending of development and production into a single environment supported by this software factory ecosystem that’s given us this tremendous agility to move forward,” said Vietmeyer.

He noted that the Pentagon is “now engaging with our industry partners where we’re trying to build combined assets as critical first-class citizens within this future environment.”

Col. Jennifer Krolikowski, the Space Force’s chief information officer, noted the importance of data – and the creation of military software factories to enhance the military’s ability to harvest it – in an increasingly crowded and novel theater, while praising the Pentagon’s shift “out of that industrial way of building and into that digital way of doing things.”

“It’s actually very encouraging that all these people want to start software factories because I think they’re starting to recognize – even just from an agile mindset – we need to build differently than we have in the past,” Krolikowski told C4ISRNET.

She stressed the Space Force’s work on Project Enigma to create a “digital backbone” in a “congested and contested environment,” noting that “China has 300% more assets in space than they had just even a few years ago.”

“We’re seeing kind of an Armageddon year, if you will, by the 2026 time frame,” Krolikowski said. “We need to build our capabilities faster than any demand signal we’ve ever experienced before.”

Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.

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