March 22, 2021

Want an Agile Pentagon? Don’t Go Chasing ‘Waterfalls’

By Chris Dougherty

In the absence of something better, the Pentagon churns out strategies every four years, releases already-outdated guidance and concepts, and issues five-year spending programs that would be familiar to Soviet planners. It is no way to keep ahead of China’s military modernization or technological disruption. There is a better way to manage complex processes like these, and some Pentagon and Congressional staff know it — if only they would just use it.

It’s called agile development — a concept from the software industry, where it has largely replaced the traditional “waterfall” method. The Biden administration should apply the same principle for developing strategy and translating it into concepts and capabilities.

Clinging to familiar, outdated processes will provide little comfort when China surpasses the United States as the world’s foremost military power.

In the waterfall method, software developers collect requirements in spreadsheets, hand them off to engineers who did not always understand the root problems their products were solving, and then delivered technical solutions that sometimes were outdated by the time they released the software. This should sound unsettlingly familiar to anyone in the Defense Department’s requirements and acquisition processes.

Read the full article from Defense One.

  • Commentary
    • The Atlantic
    • December 5, 2022
    How to Stop the Next World War

    Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has given us a glimpse of what the return of industrial-scale warfare would mean....

    By Robert O. Work & Eric Schmidt

  • Commentary
    • War on the Rocks
    • December 1, 2022
    The Kadena Conundrum: Developing a Resilient Indo-Pacific Posture

    This article originally appeared in War on The Rocks. The long-standing debate over whether the United States is prioritizing China and the Indo-Pacific region has reignited o...

    By Stacie Pettyjohn, Andrew Metrick & Becca Wasser

  • Reports
    • November 17, 2022
    Precision and Posture: Defense Spending Trends and the FY23 Budget Request

    This report examines the fiscal year (FY) 2023 defense budget request and assesses whether it sufficiently resources what was known of the Biden administration’s national defe...

    By Stacie Pettyjohn & Hannah Dennis

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Policy
    • November 10, 2022
    Welcome to the New Age of Nukes

    Nuclear weapons are back, and in a disturbingly visceral way. Vladimir Putin’s saber-rattling—“this is not a bluff” he said, warning of nuclear use in Ukraine—has sparked conc...

    By Richard Fontaine

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia