Army tries to speed cyber acquisition process

The Army is using an acquisition template known as the Information Technology Box to help it cope with cyberthreats.

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The Army is trying to speed cyber-related acquisition by using a template known as the Information Technology Box. Officials said the goal is to quickly supply soldiers with IT tools such as sensors, forensics and "insider threat discovery capabilities" in a matter of weeks rather than the months or years a traditional acquisition might take.

"Cyber doesn't fit the traditional acquisition process that you would use to deliver a tank," said Kevin Fahey, executive director of the Army's System of Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate, in an article on the Army's website.

The Defense Department first used the IT Box template in 2008 and updated it in 2012, according to the article.

"IT Box is not new. What's new is how the Army is tailoring the IT Box and other innovative acquisition methods to meet the demands of cyber," Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jesse Stalder told FCW. "We pursued IT Box because it gives us the foundation and the flexibility to quickly prioritize and deliver solutions, even as cyber requirements change based on evolving threats."

The "box" has four main components (or "sides"), according to a Defense Acquisition University glossary: requirements and oversight; capabilities and measures of effectiveness; applications and software development and integration costs; and estimated sustainment costs.

The oversight side of the box is fulfilled, at least in part, by the Cyber Acquisition Requirements and Resourcing working group, which helps prioritize the acquisition of materiel solutions.

The Army also has other initiatives in the works to limber up its acquisition process. Officials plan to set up a "consortium of industry, academia and government entities to foster cross-sector collaboration on emerging cyber solutions," according to the article on the Army's website. And Stalder said the service has established a "Cyber Innovation Challenge that allows the Army to quickly purchase and evaluate pilot and prototype cyber solutions using other transaction authority methods rather than standard acquisition processes."

The first such challenge, which is already underway, involves a software and hardware kit that supports the service's cyber protection teams, Stalder said, adding that several vendors' proposals are being evaluated at the Army's Cyber Battle Lab at Fort Gordon, Ga.

The Army isn't the only service trying to inject a sense of urgency into IT acquisition. In March, the Navy unveiled a new acquisition model known as the Innovation Cell to get interested vendors involved in the process earlier. The Air Force, meanwhile, has emphasized agile acquisition. The service's 30-year strategy, released last year, warned against big, complex procurements with "crippling interdependencies."

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