The Air Force on Monday redesignated its Program Executive Office Battle Management as the new PEO Digital affirming plans to transform its approach to rapidly delivering critical software updates for everything from weapons systems to communication platform.

Steven Wert, the new office’s lead official, told attendees Tuesday at an Air Force Association conference that PEO Digital is  already capable of fielding agile software updates every two weeks to select operational units.

Steve Wert, lead official for the Air Force's new PEO Digital
Steve Wert, lead official for the Air Force’s new PEO Digital

“It’s been very successful. Today we’re pushing updates to three sites every two weeks, and fielding more and more capability,” Wert said during an AFA conference panel. “We’re having great success when our programs are flying below the radar. So personal recovery command and control is pushing software updates every two weeks to operations. Unit command and control, we’re going to migrate to the cloud here very quickly. So this stuff works.”

Air Force officials began to transition software programs from the battle management portfolio to what would become PEO Digital over the last fiscal year.

The new office, to be headquartered at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts, will handle rapid fielding of agile software, enhanced testing with end users, automating cyber security processes, integrating operational testing and managing cloud priorities.

“We have to shift from thinking of software development from being a product to being a service,”  Will Roper, Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, said in a statement.

PEO Digital grew out of the Air Force’s Project Kessel Run, which aimed to set up continuous delivery of software updates to Combined Air Operations Centers in the battlefield, according to Wert.

“Not everything will look like Kessel Run, but there are some key concepts; getting to a release cadence in weeks not years,working with end users and taking full advantage of automated functional and security testing that can happen very rapidly,” Wert said. 

Wert’s team is tasked with expanding Kessel Run’s mission to every Air Operations Center, and evolve the service’s agile software development process.

The new office is working now to address ongoing challenges with operational testing, which has continued to slow down software deployments across the service, according to Wert.

“The question is if you’re subject to formal independent operational tests, how are we going to do that? I would submit it’s not that hard to do, to have an independent assessment and some structuring by [Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center] of what we’re doing. But we’re going to have to experiment with it,” Wert said. “We’re going to have to experiment with some different cases in order to figure out how to best integrate operational tests in.”