How to use this site
Each page in this pathway presents a wealth of curated knowledge from acquisition policies, guides, templates, training, reports, websites, case studies, and other resources. It also provides a framework for functional experts and practitioners across DoD to contribute to the collective knowledge base. This site aggregates official DoD policies, guides, references, and more.
DoD and Service policy is indicated by a BLUE vertical line.
Directly quoted material is preceeded with a link to the Reference Source.
Q: What is required for new programs to use the SWP?
A: A new software acquisition program using the SWP should have an Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM) signed by their Decision Authority authorizing use of the SWP and a draft Capability Needs Statement (CNS) or equivalent draft requirements document. Each Service/ Agency will have unique policies on what constitutes a “draft” CNS. Per DODI 5000.87, Section 3.2.b: “Programs using the software acquisition pathway will be identified in component and DoD program lists and databases within 60 calendar days of initiating the planning phase in accordance with DoD’s implementation of Section 913 of Public Law 115-91 on acquisition data analysis.”
Q: What is required for an existing program to transition to the SWP?
A: A signed Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM) signed by their Decision Authority authorizing use of the SWP. Per DODI 5000.87 Section 3.1.d: “Existing acquisition programs may elect to update their acquisition strategy to transition to the software acquisition pathway or use it in addition to their current acquisition pathway. The PM and applicable stakeholders will identify, and the DA will approve, a transition approach to tailor processes, reviews, and documentation to effectively deliver software capabilities.”
The intent for SW programs currently in development that transition to the SWP is to continue delivering software capabilities. The intent is NOT to pause the program to redo and staff many program documents for approval. However, a transition period is a good point to reflect on the program’s strategies and processes and pivot to enable modern software practices of Agile, DevSecOps, and Lean. Program Managers, in partnership with their decision authority and key stakeholders, should layout a transition plan which may include developing and/or updating key documents within a set timeframe.
The DA may decide to have the program enter the SWP Planning Phase to update strategies, designs, and more. The DA may approve the program to enter the SWP via the Execution Phase if it has the required information (or equivalent documents), with expectations on updating strategies, designs, and processes while continuing to develop and deliver software.
Per DODI 5000.87, Section 3.2.b: “Programs using the software acquisition pathway will be identified in component and DoD program lists and databases within 60 calendar days of initiating the planning phase in accordance with DoD’s implementation of Section 913 of Public Law 115-91 on acquisition data analysis.”
Q: Where can I find a list of all the required documents for the SWP?
A: The Information Required for Software Acquisition Pathway Programs toggle on the Develop Strategies page has tables of all the statutory and regulatory information required. SWP programs, per their DA approval, are strongly encouraged to tailor and streamline the information into a few program documents. The intent is to balance speed with rigor to capture sufficient information to inform decisions and stakeholders. Program processes and strategies will continuously improve throughout development.
Q: Are SWP programs exempt from MDAP laws?
A: Yes, per FY20 NDAA Section 800, “Software acquired or developed using the authority under this section shall not be treated as a major defense acquisition program for purposes of section 2430 of title 10, United States Code, or Department of Defense Directive 5000.01 without the specific direction of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment or a Senior Acquisition Executive.” Some DoD policies may require additional documents or reviews for larger SWP programs.
Q: Is there a dollar threshold for using the Software Acquisition Pathway?
A: No, the SWP is used by programs ranging from small software acquisitions to software embedded in large billion-dollar programs. In general, modern software development practices like Agile and DevSecOps are most effective for smaller programs. Large programs should consider adopting a portfolio approach with multiple smaller software programs to enable greater speed and agility.
Q: Is USD(A&S) the Decision Authority for SWP Programs?
A: No, in most cases the Program Executive Officer (PEO) is the Decision Authority (DA) for SWP programs. Most Services and Agencies proactively delegated DA to the PEOs for programs below the MDAP thresholds. Service Acquisition Executives will typically serve as MDA for SWP programs that exceed MDAP dollar thresholds (note: SWP is exempt from MDAP, but DoD still uses the dollar thresholds to identify for “large” programs). Per DODI 5000.87, Section 2.1.a., “USD(A&S) serves as the decision authority (DA) for special interest programs in the software acquisition pathway on a by-exception basis when the size, cost, complexity, performance, joint, or congressional interest warrants additional oversight.” This is envisioned to be a rare case.
Q: Are Acquisition Program Baselines (APBs) Required for the SWP?
A: No. Programs using the Software Acquisition Pathway (SWP) should not baseline cost, schedule, and performance. An Acquisition Program Baseline (APB) is not required and in fact is highly discouraged. This includes programs transitioning from other AAF pathways or legacy 5000.02 models. When requesting Decision Authority approval to enter the Software Pathway, programs transitioning should also request closeout of current APBs. Instead of establishing a baseline, SWP programs should apply modern software development practices (Agile, DevSecOps, Lean, and Human Centered Design) which promotes delivery of iterative and frequent software upgrades to satisfy user’s current highest priorities. See the Modern Software Management Approaches to Baselines and Progress section of the Develop Strategies page.
Q: Are SWP programs required to use a certain contract strategy/type?
A: No. Modular contracting is the preferred approach for acquiring major software IT systems in accordance with 41 U.S.C. §2308 and FAR Part 39.103. SWP may leverage the full range of FAR and Non-FAR contract strategies to acquire and deliver the software capabilities. See the SWP Contract Strategies page for more information.
Q: What delivery timelines are required within the SWP?
A: Programs using the software acquisition pathway will demonstrate the viability and effectiveness of capabilities for operational use not later than 1 year after the date on which funds are first obligated to develop the new software capability. New capabilities will be delivered to operations at least annually to iteratively meet requirements, but more frequent updates and deliveries are encouraged where practical. For programs using the embedded software path, this annual update applies after initial operational acceptance of the system in which the software is embedded and should be aligned with the associated system’s schedule. Before the operational acceptance of the system in which the software is embedded, software deliveries will be delivered to an operationally representative environment at least annually.
Congress further stressed in the FY21 NDAA Section 835 Joint Explanatory Statement: Provide for delivery of capability to end-users not later than 1 year after funds are obligated noting that other Government-wide policy and best practices call for updates no less frequently than once every 6 months.
For additional details, see Deployment Frequency guidance section of the MVP/MVCR/Deployment page.
Q: What metrics are required to report to USD(A&S) staff?
A: Programs using the software acquisition pathway will report a set of data to the Office of the USD(A&S) on a semi-annual basis. Data reported under this pathway will be used to monitor the effectiveness of the pathway and will not be used for program oversight.
Programs using the SWP will the Semi-Annual Reporting form (CAC required) and email to the SWP osd.mc-alex.ousd-a-s.mbx.osd-sw-pathway AT mail.mil the first Friday in April and October (2 Apr 2021 and 1 Oct 2021). This will be an interim measure until formal reporting systems are updated to account for the Software Pathway.
Q: Can an MDAP or ACAT II weapon system use the SWP for its software development?
A: Absolutely. One of the two paths within the SWP is the embedded software path which provides for the rapid development, deployment, and insertion of upgrades and improvements to software embedded in weapon systems and other military-unique hardware systems. The system in which the software is embedded could be acquired via other acquisition pathways (e.g., major capability acquisition). This is per FY20 NDAA Section 800 (P.L. 116-92).