AJPO Mission Accomplished

The Ada Joint Program Office (AJPO) has closed as of October 1, 1998, declaring its mission accomplished.

Q. Where was the announcement?

A. See Government Computer News June 22 article and DISA Sept. 23 press release.

Q. Didn't AJPO make a similar announcement a couple of years ago?

A. Yes, actually, in spring and fall of 1996. But then the mission was reconsidered, and as a consequence, "it became apparent that the AJPO was still needed to support and expand the infrastructure of the Ada effort". More recently, the "Letter from the AJPO" column in the Mar/Apr 1998 issue of Ada Letters stated that "the arrival of Ada 95 was not the end of the AJPO's mission, but in many respects the beginning."

Q. What about the AJPO web site?

A. It closed down on November 20, 1998. Its contents are archived at the Public Ada Library (PAL)

The interactive databases from the AJPO web site are archived here:

Some resources for ongoing Ada information are:

Q. What about compiler validation? Wasn't this one of AJPO's main responsibilities?

A. Yes, as required by DoDD 3405.1 (1987). But this directive was rescinded on April 29, 1997, and DoD's requirement for AJPO-validated compilers was never reinstated, as AJPO had anticipated. The ACVC is freely available for any interested party to use as they see fit, but the official DoD Ada validation procedures and requirements no longer exist.

Q. What about NIST? Isn't Ada still a FIPS standard, with requirements for NIST validation?

A. FIPS 119-1 is still valid, and section 11.4 states that "Implementations of FIPS Ada shall be validated in accordance with the NIST Computer Systems Laboratory (CSL) validation procedures for FIPS Ada". However, such validation procedures no longer exist, since NIST had delegated Ada validation authority to AJPO, and AJPO did not re-delegate this authority.

NIST has also exited the compiler validation business, and "is refocusing its program for information technology, concentrating on the development of conformance tests for emerging information technologies rather than the operation of software testing services." NIST is now maintaining an unofficial directory of third-party testing services for FIPS standards, including Ada.

Q. Is it a coincidence that AJPO and NIST both exited the compiler validation business at about the same time?

A. Not really. Both were affected by federal information technology procurement streamlining (see OMB Circular A-119, Executive Order 13011 and an interview with Sally Katzen, OIRA Administrator), with decentralization of procurement authority, and emphasis on performance specifications over standards enforcement. The Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, aka the Information Technology Management Reform Act of 1996 (ITMRA) also abolished GSA's FIRMR validation definition and guidelines. A significant common factor has undoubtedly been pressure to accept the use of "emerging information technologies" that lack effective validation procedures.

Q. Wasn't Ada supposed to sidestep DoD standards reform?

A. Yes, see Paige/Longuemere memo. By not designating Ada95 as MIL-STD-1815B (as originally planned), AJPO was able to promote Ada as an ANSI/ISO standard, consistent with DoD's newfound enthusiasm for private sector standards (see also Army perspective). But in doing so, AJPO apparently lost the ability to justify its mission as the control agent and lead promoter for what was no longer a military standard.

Q. Didn't a recent National Academy of Sciences report recommend that AJPO continue to fund Ada training and tools?

A. Yes, the 1997 National Research Council (NRC) report "Ada and Beyond: Software Policies for the Department of Defense" is reprinted here with a hyperlinked bibliography. Emmett Paige Jr., then-Assistant Secretary of Defense, C3I, responded by agreeing to continue Ada funding, while at the same time ending the Ada mandate (see also interview with then-AJPO Director LTC Drew Hamilton). For background on Mr. Paige's position on Ada, see March 1994, November 1994 and May 1995 speeches.

Q. What is DoD's programming language policy now?

A. For major systems, Ada should be considered "in the context of the systems and software engineering factors that influence overall life-cycle costs, risks, and potential for interoperability".

This policy was proposed almost verbatim in the 1996 AIA Position Statement on Ada, which recommended that each project or family of projects conduct a language selection trade study, with consideration to include life-cycle costs, interoperability, and the special needs of safety/flight critical systems and large-scale systems.

The DoD policy is similar to OMB policy given in Circular A-119, which states that "in the interests of promoting trade and implementing the provisions of international treaty agreements, your agency should consider international standards in procurement and regulatory applications".

Q. Does DoD offer guidance for programming language selection?

A. Yes. The DoD Joint Technical Architecture V2.0 references the Information Technology Standards Guidance V3.1, which includes the following guidance:

from section "the intrinsically low level nature of C and lack of direct support for modern software engineering approaches and discipline make it an undesirable language for the development of large, general purpose DoD software applications."

"Because the mechanics of the C language are embedded in C++, it is susceptible to many of the above noted difficulties with C, despite the introduction of OOP software engineering into the language."

from section "Use of C++ for the development of critical systems applications is not recommended."

from section 2.1.5: "Testing implementations for conformance to a required standard is necessary."

from section 1.1: "The standards arena is broad and is changing rapidly enough to make the ITSG quickly obsolete. The ITSG represents the consensus DOD target as it was best understood at the time of publication."

Q.Is there still an Ada law?

A. No. The Ada law was part of the annual Defense Appropriations Acts for fiscal years 1991, 1992 and 1993. But it was not retained in the permanent U.S. Code, except as a historical reference.

Q. Is there still a NATO Ada standard?

A. Yes, STANAG-3912 Ed.3(1).

Q. What is the status of MIL-STD-1815A (Ada 83)?

A. It was cancelled on June 7, 1997, with technically no superseding standard. It is available here.

Q. What is the status of the C++ international standard?

A. ISO/IEC 14882:1998 (C++) was published on October 1, 1998, coincidentally the same day that AJPO closed. The ISO printing of the C++ standard is 732 pages in length, compared to 511 pages for Ada95.

Q. Will third-party compiler testing services for Ada still be available?

A. Yes, EDS (Phil Brashear) and IABG (Michael Tonndorf), have announced plans to continue offering conformance and/or performance testing services.

Q. Is there a new email address for comments on the Ada standard?

A. The new email address is ada-comment {at} ada-auth {dot} org. (ada-comment@acm.org is being deleted as of June 2006.)

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