2016 SEI Year in Review
June 2017 • Annual Report
The 2016 SEI Year in Review highlights the work of the Software Engineering Institute undertaken in the fiscal year spanning October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2016.
Software Engineering Institute
Our military and civilian organizations increasingly look to software for ways to reach better decisions and assure their missions. This heavy reliance on software continually creates new challenges for the men and women of the Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute (SEI). In 2016, SEI technical staff tackled a range of tough, emerging problems confronting the Department of Defense (DoD), civilian government agencies, and industry. Among these are challenges related to increased software complexity, security concerns arising from hyper connectivity, the effective adoption of autonomous systems, and the best ways for humans and machines to interact. The SEI’s R&D in these and other areas addresses immediate needs facing the organizations we serve and helps move the software engineering and cybersecurity communities toward understand challenges that lie just over the horizon.
One such challenge is establishing trust between humans and autonomous systems. The Defense Science Board’s summer study on autonomy, which I had the honor to co-chair, published a report in 2016 that underscores the importance of this trust. Human-robot partnerships are a means to maintain the nation’s edge in mission settings, and assuring trust is crucial to accelerate DoD adoption of autonomous systems. SEI research on “Why Did the Robot Do That?” aims to build trust by creating a means for autonomous systems to explain their actions using natural language. When humans understand why autonomous systems behave as they do, their trust in these systems grows.
In other recent work related to autonomy, the SEI’s participation in the Robotic Operating System for military robots (ROS-M) is helping to foster innovation and security in unmanned systems while reducing system development time and costs. Our experts made key contributions to the ROS-M Cybersecurity and Software Process working groups and worked specifically to support the United States Army Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center (TARDEC).
Automation can also provide the DoD a critical edge in software development. To this end, the SEI is researching the use of automated code repair to reduce software vulnerabilities. Our researchers are working with the DoD Software Assurance Community of Practice Working Group, CERDEC, and experts from Carnegie Mellon University to produce source code transformation tools they hope will reduce the number of secure coding rule violations requiring manual inspection by two orders of magnitude.
All SEI technical work demonstrates our ongoing commitment to fulfilling our mission as a DoD research and development center focused on software and cybersecurity concerns. SEI researchers, engineers, and operational staff strive to carry out the mission in a way that promotes diversity and inclusion.
Paul D. Nielsen
Director and CEO