Air Force’s Kessel Run and Platform One ink collaboration agreement

A shot of Kessel Run’s office space at One Beacon, Boston, Mass., June 22, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Richard Blumenstein)

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Two of the Air Force‘s premier software innovation groups signed an agreement to collaborate on technical and workforce issues and better use their limited resources to create a common tech-development stack.

Announced Tuesday, the agreement between the Air Force’s Kessel Run and Platform One lays out cultural and technical points the groups will work together on, including building common security authentication standards, enforcing policy and establishing cross-platform and cross-environment portability. The hope is to eventually enable sharing of code and tools that are often redundant.

The agreement is a part of a broader push to eliminate the deep silos created by the military’s budgeting and procurement process. The outcome, the two software units hope, will be a shared tech development stack that developers in both organizations can manage and use to build on faster.

“The agreement is really more focused on building a government-owned tech stack together,” Maj. Austen Bryan, chief operating officer for Platform One, said in an interview.

Capt. Dylan Brown, Kessel Run’s government engagement lead, told FedScoop the memo is meant to establish “a common set of values.”

It is also meant to dispel the perception that Platform One and Kessel Run are “pitted against each other,” Bryan said.

Even though the two groups work to achieve different goals — with Platform One creating a DevSecOps coding environment and repository, and Kessel Run being both a software development and acquisition unit — Bryan said the challenges they face are the same.

The memo states the two groups will build for “modularity and reuse” across systems in order to maximize the tools they can share.

“We don’t have to re-do things,” Bryan said.

Brown told FedScoop that one of the biggest changes from the memo is that it formalizes the sharing of failures so mistakes only happen once between the two organizations. “There’s an incentive for protectionism,” Brown said about the current project management structure in DOD.

Bryan said that much of the new document formalizes practices already in place behind the scenes through text messages and informal communities.

“We have always had backchannels where we have talked to each other,” Bryan said.

Brown said the two have been texting each other for more than a year. “It’s about increasing the capacity of organic DevOps,” he added.

Now with a formal agreement in place, the two can share things like technical roadmaps and organize timelines around the delivery of shared services. For example, if Kessel Run needs a new identity management tool from the Air Force, Platform One can be apprised of when that tech will be coming in and if it too can use it.

The organizations hope this is just a first step for the two in working together and that others will join in as well. Expanding partnerships is a top priority, Bryan said, adding that he hopes it doesn’t take negotiating a memorandum of agreement each time and that this collaboration will provide a roadmap for how other organizations can work together.

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Department of Defense (DOD), Platform One, Project Kessel Run, software development
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