Pentagon software chief resigns citing bureaucratic frustrations, warns of lagging behind China

by ian

Ian Patrick, FISM News


The United States saw the resignation of the first ever Chief Software Officer in the U.S. Government, specifically for Air Force and Space Force, for reasons he says are untimely but necessary because he was “tired of continuously chasing support and money to do my job.”

Nicolas M. Chaillan, who has worked as a technological entrepreneur for over 22 years, reflected on his career and accomplishments in a letter posted to his LinkedIn account.

He recognizes the challenges that his job at the Department of Defense has brought him and how “infuriating” it was at times, but still optimistically states that it was “the most impactful for our children’s future and the most rewarding for me.”

Throughout his career at the DoD Chaillan accomplished a lot, notably creating the DevSecOps IT system which stands for “development, security, and operations” and Platform One which is defined as “a modern cloud-era platform that provides valuable tooling, hosts pipelines, and offers a secure Kubernetes platform for hosting microservices.”

Yet, Chaillan laments the government’s unwillingness to support the technological and IT side of things. He references an interview with Air Force Magazine back in August of this year in which he said he’s tired of hearing the government saying what’s right without following through.

I have to be a little cautious there, because quite honestly, the leadership in the department always says the right things. I’ve yet to hear them not say the right things. The Space Force . . . says, ‘We’re a digital service.’ Are you? Are you sure you’re a digital service? I’m not so sure. It’s just easy to say—it’s a little bit harder to walk the walk. And so we need to start doing that and stop talking.

Chaillan further clarifies this statement by explaining that DOD can “walk the walk” by “funding, staffing and prioritizing IT basic issues for the Department.” He says that part of his reason for leaving is what he sees is the “lack of response and alignment” and that the DoD “needs to stop staffing Enterprise IT teams as if IT is not a highly technical skill and expertise.”

It seems clear to me that our leaders are not aligned with our vision in pursuing agility, the importance of DevSecOps, continuous delivery of capabilities, nor, most importantly, the need to fund teams, like Cloud One and Platform One, that are making things happen for the Department, and is a catalyst for change across the Government.

He also explains that part of his reason for leaving is due to his own inability to technologically innovate.

In addition to his frustrations with bureaucracy and himself, he also warns of the U.S. lagging behind other nations such as China. One of his goals working in the U.S. government was to advance our software capabilities to compete with other nations like China which he says “has the drastic advantage of population over the U.S.”

I realize more clearly than ever before that, in 20 years from now, our children, both in the United States’ and our Allies’, will have no chance competing in a world where China has the drastic advantage of population over the US. If the US can’t match the booming, hardworking population in China, then we have to win by being smarter, more efficient, and forward-leaning through agility, rapid prototyping and innovation. We have to be ahead and lead. We can’t afford to be behind.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Chaillan further expressed his worries saying that the U.S. government needs to get itself together if it wants to beat China in the technological sphere. “We have no competing fighting chance against China in 15 to 20 years. Right now, it’s already a done deal; it is already over in my opinion,” Chaillan said.