Air Force chief software officer to resign

The Air Force's first chief software officer, Nicolas Chaillan, will step down from his role in October, citing lack of funding and being "unempowered to fix basic IT issues."

Nicolas Chaillan USAF official photo

The Air Force's first chief software officer, Nicolas Chaillan, will step down from his role in October, FCW has learned. His last day is planned for Oct. 2.

"We are the largest software organization on the planet, and we have almost no shared repositories and little to no collaboration across DOD Services," Chaillan wrote in a resignation memo obtained by FCW.

"At this point, I am just tired of continuously chasing support and money to do my job. My office still has no billet and no funding, this year and the next."

Chaillan started his position in 2018 with the mission of making DevSecOps the standard business practice and expanding the Kessel Run software factory model across the Air Force. He noted that the job was "probably the most challenging and infuriating of my entire career" but also "impactful" and "rewarding."

Since joining the Air Force tech leadership, Chaillan's team has most notably helped stand up Platform One, which aims to make it easier for organizations to create software factories and deploying trusted code to warfighters easier with certified tools. Chaillan's team was also behind migrating Kubernetes to the F-16 fighter jet. (Chaillan was named a Fed100 award winner in 2021 for his work with Platform One.)

Before becoming the Air Force CSO, he served as a lead on DOD's enterprise DevSecOps initiative and cloud security advisor to the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

In the memo, Chaillan noted that lack of funding along with DOD bureaucracy left his office and its mission "unempowered to fix basic IT issues." Specifically, the software chief named his recent task of helping the Joint Chiefs of Staff with its efforts on Joint All Domain Command and Control, a DOD-wide effort to make sure data can be seamlessly shared across platforms.

"They wanted me to help deliver a minimum viable product (MVP) within four months so that we would finally have a tangible deliverable to show for JADC2," Chaillan wrote.

"After a massive undertaking and development of a scope of work, based on demands from our warfighters and [combatant commands], I had just started the work and built-up excitement with teams and our mission partners, when I was told by the Joint Staff that there was no [fiscal year 2022] funding to support the MVP after all. After all the talk and continued assertions that this was critical work, DOD could not even find $20 [million] to build tremendously beneficial warfighter capabilities."

Chaillan has been vocal about DOD leaders making good on their rhetoric. In an Air Force Magazine interview earlier this month, he said "the leadership in the department always says the right things," but "it's a little bit harder to walk the walk."

In a previous interview with FCW, Chaillan also expressed that technical training and education in areas, such as cloud security, were another challenge.

"I find we have the right people and the right involvement. I think sometimes there's a lack of urgency and it feels like we're still moving a little bit too slow, and that's what I want to do a little bit better at," Chaillan said.