programs. Briefings received by the committee also highlighted the difficulty that DOD managers have in gaining access to data that can support informed decisions. The committee did find that trends in the data, anecdotal evidence, and expert judgment provided a basis for its finding that Ada provides benefits in warfighting systems. However, based on its experience with the limitations of currently available data, the committee makes an additional recommendation that DOD institute a corporate data collection effort and develop metrics as a sound basis for evaluating software so as to guide future policy and management decisions.


DOD's policy preference for Ada had some merit a decade ago. Most software at the time was entirely custom, and Ada had a good track record in delivering custom software with higher-quality and lower life-cycle costs. However, a custom Ada solution is no longer the best approach in many application areas, due to the following major trends:

  • COTS as a source of information infrastructure for applications. Software solutions increasingly depend on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software, which provides much of an application's information infrastructure: operating system, database management, networking, user interface, and distributed processing functions. Much of this software is written in programming languages other than Ada that often do not have readily available interfaces to programs written in Ada. Developing these interfaces is not a major technical problem, but, particularly in the area of commercial Internet applications, COTS software is evolving rapidly, making it hard for Ada solutions to keep current.
  • Product-line solutions and production factors. Software for many application areas is achieving economies of scale through the development of product-line architectures, enabling software assets to be reused across families of applications. These product-line solutions are driven by strongly coupled "production factors," including software components, processes and methods, human resources, and expertise in particular domains. In warfighting application areas such as weapon control and electronic warfare, there is little commercial development, and DOD has established a strong community of warfighting software developers whose production factors are oriented to Ada. However, for the numerous DOD applications in which the market is dominated by commercial solutions, such as finance and logistics, production factors have been built around programming languages other than Ada, putting Ada solutions at a disadvantage.

Additional conditions that strongly influenced the committee's findings and recommendations include the following:

  • DOD emphasis on achieving information dominance. According to Secretary of Defense William Perry, ". .. our warfighting strategy sustains and builds on ... the application of information technology to gain great military leverage to continue to give us [an] unfair competitive advantage" (Perry, 1996a). This assertion highlights the importance of a capability for enhancing military competitive advantage as a criterion for the choice of programming language.
  • Large and increasing inventory of DOD Ada software. DOD now has over 50 million lines of operational Ada weapon systems software, with a great deal more under development. Most of this software is in critical warfighting application areas, and there are no quick and cheap ways to translate it into other languages. DOD policies and investment strategies that weaken Ada support for this software are very risky because of the role warfighting software plays in maintaining national security.

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