The Army 'cyber challenge,' administered through the Pentagon’s Silicon Valley outpost, asks tech firms to help develop the service’s cloud infrastructure.
The Army has challenged technology firms to make strides in the micro-cloud computing architecture that the service considers foundational for cyber defense, with a goal of awarding a prototype contract in 90 days.
On March 31 at the Defense Department's Silicon Valley outpost, known as the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUX), Army officials hosted an information session with technologists to frame the challenge and drum up interest.
The goal is to use an "agile contracting vehicle that helps us...better move at the speed of the commercial sector," said Lt. Col. Ernie Bio, U.S. Cyber Command's lead for DIUX, in a call with reporters.
The 90-day turnaround for awarding a contract would be rapid for a defense acquisition system that has struggled to keep up with private-sector innovation cycles. But Army officials point out that a similar cyber challenge initiated last year led to the award of more than $4 million in micro-cloud contracts. Those capabilities have been delivered to the cyber protection teams that make up the Army's defensive force, said Jack Dillon, who leads the Advanced Concepts and Technology Directorate at Army Cyber Command.
The latest challenge seeks new ways to manage micro-cloud infrastructure, which DIUX said is characterized by "commonly abstracted and controlled hardware suites" that comprise a vast and varied resource pool.
Ian MacLeod, a technology adviser at Army Cyber Command, said Army missions run on a diverse array of networks, and he sees great promise in computing systems that can be quickly installed anywhere in the world.
"If I integrate these [micro clouds] and hand them to my forces, that gives them a level of agility from an operational context," MacLeod said. Advances in IT mean "we are no longer limited by sending a response team on a plane. Now it is much more agile...[and] at the speed of the network."
Tim Reilly, chief operating officer of data security firm Zettaset, was on hand for part of the March 31 event. He called DIUX's use of an agile procurement model "refreshing to say the least."
"DIUX's investment strategy is similar to an angel fund's whereby the stage of the company is not one of the top criteria, it's secondary to the technology," Reilly told FCW. "Great ideas can come from anywhere -- even a garage."
The Army's heightened interest in using the cloud for cyber defense comes as its cyber force matures.
Andrew Forysiak, director of capabilities, implementation and modernization at Army Cyber Command, hailed progress in the Army's cyber capabilities over the past two years. The Army is on track to meet its goal of having all of its 41 cyber mission teams (which total about 1,900 people) at full operational capability by October, Forysiak said March 31 at an AFCEA NOVA event.
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