National Cybersecurity Initiative R&D effort launched

Editor's note: This story was updated at 4:27 p.m. Oct. 20, 2008. Please go to Corrections & Clarifications to see what has changed.

The government officially has begun to formulate a national research and development agenda for “game-changing ideas" as part of the multiyear, multibillion-dollar, governmentwide effort to secure cyberspace through the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI).

The National Science Foundation today published a request for information (RFI) in the Federal Register on behalf of the National Coordination Office (NCO) for Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD), initiating the National Cyber Leap Year.

The Leap Year is meant to seek “the most promising game-changing ideas with the potential to reduce vulnerabilities to cyber exploitations by altering the cybersecurity landscape,” according to the RFI. The project aims to formulate an integrated national approach to making “cyberspace safe for the American way of life.”

Specifically, the project has the dual goals of forming a national research and development agenda that identifies the most promising technologies and how to bring them to fruition and to “jump-start game-changing, multidisciplinary efforts.” The Leap Year will run during fiscal 2009.

“These game-changing technologies (or nontechnical mechanisms that are made possible through technology), developed and deployed over the next decade, will fundamentally change the cyber game into one where the good guys have an advantage,” the RFI published in today’s Federal Register states.

In January the Bush administration kicked off the multibillion-dollar CNCI by signing a presidential directive. Although much of the initiative remains classified, officials have released more detail regarding the scope and detail of the multiyear effort in recent months.

According to today’s RFI the presidential directive calls for leap-ahead research and technology to reduce vulnerabilities to asymmetric attacks in cyberspace.

“Unlike many research agenda that aim for steady progress in the advancement of science, the leap-ahead effort seeks just a few revolutionary ideas with the potential to reshape the landscape,” the RFI states.

The first stage of the Leap Year project – which begins with today’s RFI – involves surveying the cybersecurity community for the ideas. The second phase involves a series of workshops to develop the best ideas.

During the second phase the government plans to publish findings on “game-changers” and technical strategy with as many specifics as possible on the types of invention or research needed. The government will also publish findings on how the capability will be implemented, delivered and used, as well as recommendations on funding, authorities and policies.

Contributors to stage one can submit as many as three leap-ahead concepts. According to the RFI many of the concepts can be classified as ideas that either aim to “morph the gameboard,” “change the rules” or “raise the stakes” to protect against potential cyberattacks.

Although the RFI is open to everyone, officials are encouraging collaborative, multidisciplinary efforts and those with cybersecurity interests to apply. Deadline for submission is Dec. 15, 2008.

NITRD should be contacted with questions regarding the program.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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