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2022 Year in Review

The Drive Toward Stability

Editorial: SEI chief technology officer Tom Longstaff describes the institute’s technical strategy in the face of change.

Emerging disruptions to the field of software-intensive systems are of particular concern to the Department of Defense (DoD), which depends on software to deliver most new capabilities for maintaining strategic advantage. The SEI has reshaped its research strategy to take on emerging disruptions and integrated a number of research threads to multiply our impact.

Three disruptions have had the greatest impact on the DoD and our work. First, communications technology has enabled programs to interconnect directly, demanding an entirely new level of trust. Second, the interconnection of systems with multiple intersecting threads of execution, and the complex programs operating in these systems, present much larger attack surfaces. Third, the component pieces of ultra-large-scale systems are constantly evolving, increasing the danger of unintended consequences. All three disruptions can affect physical weapons and defensive systems. The result is an unstable environment with potentially devastating effects.

The SEI has reshaped its research strategy to take on emerging disruptions and integrated a number of research threads to multiply our impact.

Tom Longstaff
SEI Chief Technology Officer

To stymie adversaries and create stability in the face of disruption, we revised the SEI’s strategy in 2019. With our new strategic goal, Software Transforming the Mission, we sought to enable the DoD to realize advantage through software through four cross-cutting, targeted objectives. Three years after this adjustment, we have provided the DoD capable, timely, trustworthy, and affordable software and software research by pursuing four self-reinforcing objectives:

  1. Automate the software development and DoD acquisition lifecycle with investments in cost estimation, automated trust assessment, and assuring software design is fully implemented through the development process.
  2. Create operational resilience for missions with cyber threat hunting training, artificial intelligence (AI) decision support systems, AI robustness, and cyber-physical system assurance.
  3. Realize AI and future computing with the development of an AI engineering discipline, data-intensive computing optimization, developing trustworthy and explainable AI, and quantum computing.
  4. Integrate the preceding objectives into mission-capable systems that bring disciplined AI together with modern software development, cybersecurity, and architecture evolution.

To achieve these objectives, we transition research results to practice in DoD programs, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and other U.S. government organizations. We also transition matured technologies to Defense Industrial Base organizations and others in the DoD software supply chain.

The SEI’s applied research and advanced technology development (AR&D) aligns with DoD priorities and explores unexploited technologies and engagements. Field work with customers yields prototypes, practices, and pilots, and work with end users enhances SEI AR&D activities. We then generalize or scale AR&D prototypes or practices for the DoD and industry.

Our strategy of Software Transforming the Mission is effecting change in major government initiatives featured in this Year in Review. Our broad-ranging support of the Sentinel program has enhanced nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3). A new SEI network flow processor is transforming the threat hunting capability at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Our maturity modeling expertise informed major changes to the Department of Energy’s Cybersecurity Capability Maturity Model (C2M2). Critical safety measures for the U.S. Air Force’s Long-Range Standoff weapon are strengthening Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2). The ultimate aim is to bring more stability and predictability to an ever-more-complex and disrupted software environment.