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Software Shines in SOCOM Acquisition Chief’s Buying Plans

The executive outlined how the service is prioritizing faster software development for modernized defense systems.

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U.S. Special Operations Command Chief Acquisition Officer James Smith discusses the service's focus on DevSecOps to develop software faster for defense missions.
Photo Credit: SOCOM

U.S. Special Operations Command is prioritizing software development to improve its systems and the intelligence its operators receive in combat, SOCOM Acquisition Executive James Smith said Tuesday at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) at Tampa, Florida.

Smith noticeably focused less time on platforms and weapons during his keynote speech to the conference and more time on software and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems. Known for buying the latest next-generation equipment in the Defense Department, SOCOM is focusing on arming its operators with better real-time intelligence.

Smith said he sees the potential in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies fusing multiple intelligence nodes such as space-based systems, ground sensors and publicly available information into one intelligence product delivered to operators.

“The role of AI in taking disparate data and forming it into useful information, useful information to a small, disconnected team at the edge is really what the SOF aspect of this is,” Smith said.

SOCOM has taken steps forward in developing systems to improve software development. Smith identified how SOCOM developed a DevSecOps environment for programs like SOCOM’s Mission Command System.

DevSecOps is an Agile environment used by many private companies to develop software. Smith said SOCOM leadership is looking to make additional investments in software development and forming the processes required to do so.

“That’s an area where we’ve invested quite heavily,” he said. “We’re not at a continuous DevSecOps cycle yet, that’s where we’re trying to move.”

SOCOM leaders have worked for years to connect the command to a wider array of technology companies to tackle challenges for special operators. Seven years ago, SOCOM signed a contract to launch SOFWERX, an innovation hub located near SOCOM headquarters to make it easier for these tech companies to compete for DOD contracts.

Since its launch, SOFWERX now has more than 65,000 members in its ecosystem, Smith said. He said that ecosystem has resulted in multiple hardware and software programs.

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