DISA tees up new round of contracts

Agency officials outlined a range of forthcoming contracts covering everything from enterprise resource planning to cybersecurity analytics at a Nov. 2 industry day.

Wikimedia image: Defense Information Systems Agency (logo).

Defense officials often grouse about an era of tight budgets, but attendees of the Defense Information Systems Agency's industry day could be forgiven for assuming DISA's spigots are open. Officials outlined a range of forthcoming contracts covering everything from enterprise resource planning to cybersecurity analytics at the event, held Nov. 2 at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington.

One big project in the works, dubbed Telecommunication Services and Enterprise Acquisition Services, or TSEAS, aims for an "all-encompassing enterprise resource planning solution" to support DISA's back-office needs, said Alfred Rivera, director of DISA's Development and Business Center.

"We are revisiting how we want to do our back-end office optimization, and right now…I would argue we have a lot of legacy, stove-pipe...solutions supporting various business aspects," Rivera said. DISA plans to release an RFP for the project in the second quarter of fiscal 2016.

The industry day also was a chance for DISA to highlight the broad overhaul it did in January to try to make the agency more responsive to industry demands. That effort saw the agency set up branches for topics like business and development, and implementation of services and infrastructure.

And if there was a cybersecurity-related theme to the day, it was that DOD craves automation.

Jack Wilmer, an executive at DISA's Infrastructure Directorate, said the agency was looking to have "fewer manually intensive tools" for cyber defense and more automation. About 80 percent of incoming email traffic to DOD accounts is spam, phishing or some other form of junk, he noted. The other 20 percent includes both benign traffic and zero-day threats that cannot be blocked with known signatures. And so the agency is "evolving from [a] signature-based detection" approach to one that takes more stock of zero-days, Wilmer said.

DISA will soon release an RFP for an "Enterprise Email Security Gateway Solution" to provide anti-virus and content-filtering services, Wilmer said. "One of the things that we're trying to drive into that that does not exist now is data loss prevention," he added.

ISIS fight changed the game

The demand on DISA to deploy improved military communications to war zones looks set to increase, given President Obama's recent decisions to extend the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and deploy special operations forces to advise in the fight against the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS.

For DISA, the fight against ISIS has meant supporting ad-hoc communications networks and providing tools to synthesize intelligence in the field.

One example is DISA's "unified video dissemination system," which aggregates the feeds of drones in the field and makes them available via a broadcast service. That video service is used daily by combatant commands that are supporting the anti-ISIS fight, Martin Gross, vice director of DISA's Implementation and Sustainment Center, told reporters.

There is also the Mission Partner Environment, which DISA uses to provide defense officials with a single structure to share information with allies, including those involved in the fight against ISIS.

Setting up ad hoc networks can mean dealing with legacy technology, Gross said. "There are a lot of networks that are built on legacy technology that we're looking at how to rapidly move forward and integrate together," he added.

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