Problems and skepticism surrounding the Army's $200 billion Future Combat System (FCS) have been discussed for years now. (Government Executive Magazine ran its latest in-depth assessment last year, and The Washington Post ran a critical article this week.) In the Post article, reporter Alec Klein, quotes an executive from FCS prime contractor Boeing as saying the original estimate of the number of lines of code has always been 55 million -- not the 33.7 million lines of code that the Army estimated in 2003. (That number has now increased to 63.8 million.) Boeing FCS program manager Dennis "Muilenburg ... said that the original software estimate was 55 million lines of code, not 33.7 million," according to the Post.
That statement caught the eye of Robert Charette, a risk management expert who consults with governments, including the Defense Department, and companies worldwide. In his blog "The Risk Factor," he wrote in a recent post:
The reason I find this [Boeing's assertion that 55 million lines of code was the original estimate] curious is that the 33.7 million lines of code estimate has been around for several years, and appears in congressional testimony many, many times. That number gave lots of folks pause in 2003, since the Army claimed at the time that it would complete FCS in five and a half-years. Questions were raised then about whether that amount of code could be developed in that time frame, but the ever-confident Army said it could be accomplished.
I have never heard or seen that 55 million lines of code number ever mentioned before this article. If that was the true estimate at proposal time, did the contractor and the Army "forget" to let Congress, the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO), and a whole bunch of other people know the true system size so that they wouldn't ask questions in 2003 like, "Tell me again how you plan to develop and integrate an average of 10 million lines of native and commercial-off-the-shelf software per year over each of the next five years?" "Can you point to any military software-intensive development of 10 million lines of code successfully completed in 5 years?" "Can you prove you are not legally insane?"