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Summit Calls for National Software Strategy

By: PRNewswire

'Software 2015' Program Addresses 'Unacceptable Risks and Consequences of Software Failure'

RESTON, Va., May 5 /PRNewswire/ -- The findings and recommendations of the 2nd National Software Summit (NSS2) were announced today by the Center for National Software Studies (CNSS) at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The report, entitled "Software 2015: A National Software Strategy to Ensure U.S. Security and Competitiveness," lays out a ten-year program to address what the summit participants concluded are "unacceptable risks" associated with the nation's dependence on software in virtually all of its critical infrastructures.

"This is a very important report that merits attention at the highest levels of government, industry and academia," said Dr. Alan Salisbury, president of the CNSS and chair of the recent software summit. "For far too long we have simply accepted poor quality software as a fact of life. The real facts are that we know how to build much better software today, and we need to invest in even better software engineering for the future," he added. As an Army Major General, Salisbury had responsibility for all of the U.S. Army's software, both on and off the battlefield.

The report notes that software today is truly ubiquitous and is the linchpin of the information technology that underlies such critical infrastructures as the nation's power grid, the communications grid, the transportation system and the financial infrastructure. "And when that dependence is balanced against the current state of software quality and reliability, it is fair to conclude that we are truly a nation at risk of unacceptable consequences of software failure" in such key areas as:

-- Risk of critical infrastructure failures
-- Risk of sudden and severe economic loss
-- Risk of loss of life and limb
-- Risk of loss of public confidence

Several significant software failures in recent years are noted as examples, from the shutdown of a carrier's long distance telephone network, to medical equipment releasing fatal doses of radiation, to the enormous disruptions caused by viruses and worms that exploit software defects. "As if to add emphasis to the point, an airline's entire fleet was recently grounded and thousands of passengers were stranded over the 2004 holiday season thanks to a relatively simple software bug involving the overflow of a counter."

Underlying such failures are two critical gaps: "The first gap is between what we require in software tools and technology to routinely develop error-free software and the current state-of-art. The second gap is between the current state-of-art and the state-of-practice within the software industry." With regard to the second gap, the report goes on to say, "Simply stated, far too great a segment of the industry is failing to apply proven approaches and techniques that could improve the quality of software products by an order of magnitude or more!"

Noting the increasing trends toward offshore outsourcing, and the dwindling numbers of students majoring in computer science and related IT fields, the report also expresses concern that "we face another gap of equal importance related to our global competitiveness. The rapid increase in high-quality, low-wage offshore software sources makes it imperative that special attention be paid to software workforce skill shortage and wage issues, to our willingness to invest in maintaining technological leadership, and to the need to nurture and stimulate our national capacity for innovation."

The key recommendation of the report is that software needs to be elevated to the national policy agenda. With this in mind, the report calls for the pursuit of a National Software Strategy (NSS) through public-private partnerships involving government, industry and academia, with the vision of "Achieving the ability to routinely develop and deploy trustworthy software products and systems, while ensuring the continued competitiveness of the U.S. software industry." The NSS includes eleven new initiatives, each consisting of one or more detailed tasks, within four major program areas:

-- Improving Software Trustworthiness
-- Educating and Fielding the Software Workforce
-- Re-Energizing Software Research and Development
-- Encouraging Innovation Within the U.S. Software Industry

Finally, the "Software 2015" report provides for continuing oversight and follow-up of the National Software Strategy through the establishment of a National Software Strategy Steering Group (NSG), including representatives from more than a dozen professional societies, academic groups, non-profit organizations and government agencies. The NSG is expected to convene future summits approximately every three years to track progress toward the stated vision.

The Software 2015 Report makes a compelling case for the urgent need to address critical software issues and problems that pose serious risks to the nation's security and economic well-being and calls on the nation's leaders in all sectors, government, industry and academia, to commit to working together to achieve these common goals.

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Summit Calls for National Software Strategy