Army issues awards for first Cyber Innovation Challenge

By Claire Heininger, U.S. ArmyDecember 15, 2015

Army issues awards for first Cyber Innovation Challenge
Spc. Casey Payne, left, a Soldier assigned to the 201st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade, and Sgt. Andrew Lee, a Soldier assigned to D Company, 14th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2-2 ID (SBCT), pull security for a Soldier from the 780th Mili... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Dec. 15, 2015) -- The U.S. Army has entered into Other Transaction agreements with two vendors to deliver next-generation, Deployable Defensive Cyberspace Operations (DCO) Infrastructure (DDI) prototype kits for Cyber Protection Teams (CPTs).

The awards were issued to Critical Stack, Inc., for $3 million; and to Parsons Corp., in partnership with Wolf Den Associates, for $1.5 million. The Army held kick-off meetings with both vendors on Dec. 3 and the first prototypes are expected to be delivered by April 2016. Army Cyber Command, specifically the Cyber Protection Brigade and CPTs, will then use the kits operationally to inform specifications prior to fielding decisions and potential broader procurement.

The awards are the result of the Army's inaugural Cyber Innovation Challenge, a new model that looks to industry partners -- especially non-traditional defense contractors -- to deliver prototype solutions for rapid evaluation using a flexible acquisition model known as Other Transaction Authority (OTA).

Used by the Army science and technology community, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and several federal departments, the OTA mechanism provides cost-sharing, shortens the capability-development cycle and speeds the transition of prototypes to the government.

"In cyber, the ground is shifting every day, so we need an acquisition approach that allows us to change with the threat and bring in new ideas wherever they originate," said Douglas K. Wiltsie, executive director of the U.S. Army System of Systems Engineering and Integration (SoSE&I) Directorate, which spearheads the Cyber Innovation Challenge. "These awards show how the Army can quickly tap into leading edge cyber technology and deliver it to Soldiers for their feedback."

The challenge focused on the Army's Deployable Defensive Cyberspace Operations (DCO) Infrastructure (DDI) requirement. Intended as an easily transportable kit of software and hardware, the DDI will support CPTs providing active maneuver defense on friendly networks when they need to deploy quickly to counter threat activity. DDI will interface with other Army network capabilities, allowing CPTs to conduct countermeasures in real time and enable commanders to take immediate action to execute network defense.

The Army received 12 responses in response to its DDI solicitation, released in June 2015, and performed an initial down-select to the four most likely to produce viable, innovative prototypes. Those four solutions were evaluated in August at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Cyber Battle Lab at Fort Gordon., in a collaborative environment that allowed the Army and the vendors to discuss a wide range of technical and form factor improvements. Based on the demonstration results, the Army entered into the Other Transaction agreements with the two vendors to deliver limited quantity prototype equipment.

Also now underway is a second Cyber Innovation Challenge, focused on attracting new cyber situational awareness technology and solutions that will help tactical commanders more accurately characterize the cyber domain and estimate the risk to mission from cyber threats. The Army held an industry day on Nov. 18, and plans to release the requirements synopsis in a request for white papers in late December or early January, followed by an initial down-select and evaluation of technologies in relevant lab environments. Potential Other Transaction agreements for solutions that show value could be awarded in the 3rd quarter of Fiscal Year 2016.

"Soldiers fighting on the ground have systems available to them to know locations of friendly and enemy forces, and are provided situational understanding of the Land Domain. The same capability is needed in Cyberspace in order to fight in that domain," said Col. Joseph Dupont, trail boss for the Army Cyber Acquisition Task Force. "The Innovation Challenge is one way we can provide our cyber warriors with the tools they need to be successful."

To execute each Cyber Innovation Challenge, the Army works through a consortium, a voluntary organization with members from industry, academia and government. This approach allows the Army to solicit, evaluate and purchase limited quantity prototypes of equipment from a wide range of non-traditional sources, including small and micro companies who may lack the resources to engage in the traditional government contracting process.

The Army's ultimate goal is to hold three to four Cyber Innovation Challenges per year to help investigate priority requirements and complement CyberQuest, a larger TRADOC exercise beginning next year that will examine cyber requirements and relevant capabilities in an experimental environment.

"The first round of the challenge was a success -- we saw a lot of innovation and broad industry participation," said Col. Bryan J. Stephens, Cyber Focal director, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. "As we repeat these processes, we will only get better at execution, to the benefit of cyber Soldiers, our industry partners and the greater Army."

Related Links:

Cyber Center of Excellence

U.S. Army Cyber Command

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