Slotkin’s Bipartisan CODER Act Passes Out of Committee as Part of the National Defense Authorization Act

June 13, 2019
Press Release
CODER Act would modernize defense software acquisition, reduce risk to servicemembers, expand opportunities for Michigan small businesses

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s bipartisan Creating Opportunities through Defense Engineering Requirements (CODER) Act was incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the major annual bill that funds the Department of Defense, which passed out of the House Armed Services Committee this morning.


The CODER Act would overhaul and modernize the way the Department of Defense (DoD) acquires the software it relies on to carry out missions, manage weapons systems and personnel, and communicate with allies, while expanding opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses to compete for those software contracts. Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI-10) is a co-sponsor of the bill.


Currently, the defense software-acquisition process mirrors the years-long, one-size-fits-all process by which the DoD acquires hardware military assets like ground vehicles and aerial platforms. Software acquisition, by contrast, should be iterative and build on operational success. Due to the lengthy nature of the current acquisition process for defense software, service members are exposed to unnecessary risk, as they wait for software updates to critical weapons and operating systems.


The CODER Act significantly expedites and upgrades the software-acquisition process, helping protect our military and service members in the face of rapidly evolving threats, encouraging innovation, and ensuring cybersecurity is integral to the software life cycle. The CODER Act also encourages the Department to seek cutting-edge capabilities among a diverse array of companies, including small and medium-sized businesses beyond traditional defense contractors, thereby opening the door for the vast array of Michigan businesses who are poised to compete for these contracts.


“Michigan is uniquely positioned at both the state and federal level to advocate for increased military missions and defense contracts,” Slotkin said. “Michigan expertise and industry have much to offer the Department of Defense as it modernizes to include automation, robotics, cyber and a new generation of vehicles — some of Michigan’s core competencies. This bill will make it easier for companies in our state offering cutting-edge software capabilities to compete for defense contracts, and I’m thrilled it has passed out of the House Armed Services Committee as part of the NDAA.”


“As a senior official at the Pentagon, I saw firsthand how long it can take to get critical capabilities to our service members in the field,”  Slotkin added. “Now, as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I’m committed to identifying ways to safely speed up elements of this process. I commend the Department of Defense and its Defense Innovation Board for identifying pragmatic steps we in Congress can take to improve the Department’s ability to support the warfighter and our national security.”


“Our nation’s security relies on the Department of Defense’s ability to adapt to new and emerging threats, especially in cybersecurity,” said Rep. Mitchell. “However, current acquisition methods often leave our defense agencies behind the curve since the procurement and deployment process can be lengthy and overly burdensome. The CODER Act will reform the acquisition, development, and training processes for software to ensure the Department of Defense not only stays up to date on cyber innovation and development, but can take a leading role in the future.”


Defense and business leaders share support and enthusiasm for the CODER Act’s impact in ensuring the U.S. military’s technological edge and expanding business opportunity, particularly in Michigan:


"This bill goes a long way to reducing a high barrier of entry for software companies, especially small businesses, interested in doing business with the Department of Defense. If passed I know the names of 1100 plus Michigan software businesses in Michigan that will be ready to get engaged,” said Sean Carlson, Executive Director of Michigan Defense Center.


“The CODER Act will provide new opportunities to small- and medium-sized software firms in Michigan, while supporting the goal of a new acquisition pathway for the Department of Defense,” said Tammy Carnrike, Chief Operating Officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber.


“As Michigan’s Industry 4.0 knowledge center, Automation Alley is committed to helping our state’s small- and medium-sized businesses grow and prosper in the digital age. To that end, we support initiatives that promote innovation during this time of rapid technological change, including the CODER Act of 2019, introduced by Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, representing the 8th District of Michigan,” said Tom Kelly, Executive Director & CEO, Automation Alley. “This bill would change the practice of how the Department of Defense procures and develops software by adopting modern software development approaches, providing more agility, more innovation and more security. This would benefit small- and medium-size businesses that have cutting-edge software, robotics and tech capabilities—including those who have not necessarily been traditional defense contractors, which includes many companies in Michigan. Automation Alley is pleased to support the CODER Act of 2019 as it aligns with our mission to fuel Michigan's economy and accelerate innovation.”


“I applaud Rep Slotkin for introducing the CODER Act of 2019, which recognizes the criticality of software to our warfighting capability and emphasizes speed of delivery as its most important attribute. I strongly support this important legislation,” said William H. McRaven, Admiral, U.S. Navy (Ret.), Former Commander of Special Operations Command.


“Assuring the U.S. military's technological edge requires agility in defense acquisition. Nowhere is this challenge more evident than software development, where traditional approaches are failing to keep pace with commercial innovation. By facilitating all aspects of agile software development, from changes in culture and workforce to new pathways for expedited requirements and acquisition, this legislation provides a needed shift to adaptable approaches that will help our military stay ahead of potential competitors,” said Kathleen Hicks, Senior Vice President; Henry A. Kissinger Chair; Director, International Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies and former Department of Defense Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.


“NDIA supports the CODER Act of 2019. In a time of great power competition, in which investments in critical technologies and rapid acquisitions are an integral element in warfighting capabilities, it is imperative the Defense Department be given the authorities to swiftly provide our servicemembers with the necessary tools to maintain a technological edge over adversaries. We commend Rep. Slotkin for introducing legislation that identifies rapid software acquisition as a critical capability needed to support the warfighter. We look forward to working with both Congress and the Department in shaping such vital policy,” said General Hawk Carlisle, USAF (Ret), President and CEO of the National Defense Industrial Association.


“BSA applauds Rep. Slotkin for introducing legislation to modernize the Defense Department’s software acquisition policies. The software industry is constantly innovating to offer best-in-class solutions to improve performance and security, and Rep. Slotkin’s legislation will help ensure that the Pentagon has acquisition policies that are agile enough to enable it to reap these benefits. We look forward to working with Congress to advance this legislation and enacting further reforms to improve the quality, security, and agility of Defense Department software.” - Tommy Ross, Senior Policy Director, BSA | The Software Alliance.


The CODER Act would specifically:


  • Modernize the DoD acquisition pathway to procure, develop, deploy and continuously improve software applications.


  • Limit the contract amount under this authority to $50 million for one year and allow for an optional additional year with a contract limit of $100 million.


  • Provide for the use of rapid development and implementation of software applications to be used with commercially available hardware and upgrades for embedded weapon systems or another hardware system solely used by the DoD.


  • Allow the DoD to expedite the acquisition process through this authority by not being subject to the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System Manual and Department of Defense Directive 5000.01, except to the extent specifically provided in developed guidance under this Act.


  • Permit the department to provide software practitioners access to modern engagement and collaboration platforms to connect, share their skills and knowledge, and develop solutions leveraging the full defense enterprise.


  • Direct the Secretary of Defense to implement a software development training and management program to include all software acquisition professionals, developers, and associated functions to develop solutions leveraging the full defense enterprise.