Airmen given direct access to AOC development process

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – The Air Force announced its Air Operations Center weapons system will be upgraded using industry best-practice Agile DevOps software development processes through an effort called AOC Pathfinder.

The Pathfinder is expected to provide modernized AOC capabilities to the warfighter within one calendar year of initiation and integrate AOC operators into the software development process. The Air Force is working through funding options with Congress for the new approach.

Air Force acquisition leaders recognized the current acquisition strategy, in progress since 2009, will not deliver capability to the warfighter fast enough. Today, we terminated the current AOC 10.2 contract with Northrop Grumman in order to take a different approach.  AOC Pathfinder will commence immediately, in partnership with Defense Digital Services and Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, as acquisition teammates with the AOC program office at Hanscom.

“This AOC Pathfinder gives us the ability to work in a much more integrated and collaborative way with end users than the current acquisition strategy allows for, and to be beholden to their direct feedback and what is most important to them,” said Lt. Col. Jeremiah Sanders, Air Operations Center Weapon System program manager at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Hanscom.  “Our goal is to create operational value by getting modernized AOC capabilities to Airmen as quickly as possible, and to improve it continuously while leveraging progress made on AOC 10.2.  Improvement of software never really ends, so moving to this acquisition strategy enables us to treat the AOC like your phone, with constantly improving applications and security.  The rate of change is driven by users and the IT industry, which requires rethinking the culture, policies, processes and paradigms of how we acquire IT and software systems.”

Under the new strategy, program managers will be able to move on tight timelines, while DIUx will work with commercial industry to incorporate best-of-breed experts who have worked software development strategies of similar scale and bring competencies not yet prevalent among the Defense Industrial Base.

The goal is to field new AOC capabilities via a continuous delivery software development pipeline to a hybrid cloud-based platform alongside the legacy AOC 10.1 system. Next, Airmen will work with software developers to update software based on their operational priorities, with continual updates tested and run on the cloud, and added to the AOC in a way that does not interfere with critical missions.

“Once we field this platform and establish the software pipeline, we will begin the iterative improvement process,” said Sanders.  “That’s where this acquisition process really makes a difference.  The customers, in this case Airmen at the AOCs, are able to communicate their needs directly to developers and see the changes they request within weeks. We know from industry that continuous user feedback is worth making this strategy and cultural change.”