PEO EIS leader shares plans to align with Army's agile vision

By Erika ChristOctober 17, 2022

Program Executive Officer Ross Guckert (l.) from PEO EIS presents at an ASA(ALT) forum at the AUSA 2022 Annual Meeting & Exhibition, while moderator Col. Christopher Hill (r.) looks on.
Program Executive Officer Ross Guckert (l.) from PEO EIS presents at an ASA(ALT) forum at the AUSA 2022 Annual Meeting & Exhibition, while moderator Col. Christopher Hill (r.) looks on. (Photo Credit: Susan McGovern, PEO EIS STRATCOMM) VIEW ORIGINAL

The Army is in the midst of modernizing its software acquisition approach, and PEO EIS is transforming to align with the Army’s Agile vision. That’s the message EIS Program Executive Officer Ross Guckert conveyed to attendees of a forum at the Association of the United States Army’s (AUSA) 2022 Annual Meeting & Exposition in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 11.

The Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology’s [ASA(ALT)] Digital Transformation Forum on “Modernizing Software Acquisition – Going Agile” featured Guckert, along with Program Executive Officer Karen Saunders from PEO Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, and Jennifer Swanson, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for data, engineering and software. The three leaders discussed Agile software development, DevSecOps, software bill of materials and upskilling of the Army workforce.

Shifting to an Agile software acquisition approach is necessary to ensure better responsiveness to Soldiers’ needs and to deliver capability quickly in a world where threats arise and evolve at a fast pace, said Guckert. While EIS has traditionally employed waterfall software development practices in the past — requiring teams to complete an individual phase of a project before moving on to the next phase — the organization has increasingly been adopting Agile methodologies, enabling teams to work in smaller increments, adapt and improve solutions along the way, and reduce the risk of project failure.

Some examples of EIS programs already employing Agile in some form or fashion include the Accessions Information Environment, Army Contract Writing System, ArmyIgnitED and Army Training Information System. The Army’s impending Enterprise Business Systems – Convergence (EBS-C) solicitation and future releases of the Integrated Personnel and Pay System – Army (IPPS-A) will also incorporate Agile approaches, said Guckert.

In the defensive cyber realm, EIS has been a forerunner in Agile and DevSecOps. The organization’s Defensive Cyber Operations (DCO) Project Management Office has a facility called “The Forge,” which has a continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline in the cloud that bakes in security and delivers capability to cyber warriors on a monthly basis.

“It’s really a model to follow within the portfolio as a best practice,” said Guckert, “and it actually won the 2021 David Packard Award for Acquisition Excellence.”

Guckert cited several key pillars that are critical to EIS’ plans for implementing Agile and DevSecOps:

  • Talent Management: EIS plans to grow talent organically by employing innovative recruitment techniques and providing ongoing Agile training for team members, as well as by participating in ASA(ALT)’s upscaling pilot program.
  • Contracting: EIS supports the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for procurement’s efforts to establish a framework for Agile contracting, including how to buy in iterations and balance the right contract type with cost-plus and fixed-fee.
  • Testing: In alignment with the Army Test and Evaluation Command, EIS will transform how testing is conducted, including with future releases of IPPS-A, by embedding testing into Agile sprints and conducting distributed testing.
  • Funding: EIS supports more colorless appropriations that provide it with the flexibility to adapt to evolving threats and the pace of change.  “We’re the only pilot in the Army [DCO] that has Budget Activity 8,” said Guckert, adding that the Army is looking to bring more pilots into the mix.
  • Metrics: EIS has started using Agile metrics like level of effort and burndown. “We should be looking at the same metrics as industry, talking about what they’re telling us every week, looking at leading indicators and course-correcting if we need to,” said Guckert.
  • Continuous Authority to Operate (ATO): Army Chief Information Officer Dr. Raj Iyer is working with the Office of the Secretary of the Defense to get continuous ATO delegated to EIS. “We’re anxious to get that continuous process,” said Guckert, noting that EIS is going to implement a CI/CD pipeline that automates testing and cybersecurity, pushing it to production.
  • Human-Centered Design and User Interface Design/User Experience Design (UI/UX): These elements, including ease of navigation, are critical to what EIS does in the business systems arena. “I’ve seen programs fail with bad UI/UX,” said Guckert, adding that EIS will be evaluating it as part of the EBS-C prototyping effort.
  • Cloud Infrastructure: There are a lot of tools in place, including the Enterprise Cloud Management Agency’s global cloud environment (cARMY) and DevSecOps framework and environment (CReATE) to support DevSecOps, said Guckert.
  • Automated Data Migration: This topic is particularly important to EIS as interfaces and data migration challenges take up a lot of Guckert’s time. “Industry – please work with us on how we can automate that process,” he said.
  • Rapid Prototyping and Tech Demos: These are needed for all the above topics, according to Guckert. While EIS tends to default to the Software Acquisition Pathway, a hybrid approach might be better suited for certain programs, said Guckert. “The BCAT [business system categories] process is highly tailorable to enable the Agile process,” he said, noting that he foresees EIS using a hybrid approach for EBS-C until it’s time to pivot to the Software Acquisition Pathway.
  • Industry and Joint Conversations: Talking to industry partners on a daily basis and with colleagues in the other military services is important as EIS evolves into an Agile organization, said Guckert. “AUSA is a great opportunity to do that,” he added.

Guckert concluded his AUSA forum remarks by reminding attendees that EIS needs industry’s input and by leaving them with a challenge. “How do we get the best deal for the Army but ensure it’s also a win-win for industry as well?”