Air Force awards Cyber Command's $54.6M cyber weapons system

The Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $54.6 million contract for Unified Platform, which will facilitate offensive and defensive cyber operations.

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U.S. Cyber Command is one step closer to building its massive cyber weapons system, Unified Platform.

The Air Force, which is facilitating the acquisition, awarded Northrop Grumman a $54.6 million contract to develop, integrate, deploy and maintain the system, which will be responsible for fulfilling offensive and defensive cyber operations, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

The award represents Cyber Command's biggest program acquisition at a time when the organization has little authority, with a $75 million cap and a small, but growing, acquisition office.

"We are really hamstrung at the moment in relying on the current [contracting] vehicles out there from others," Stephen Schanberger, command acquisition executive for Cyber Command said during a panel at the last month's Billington Cybersecurity Summit. "And in some cases we've had to adjust our scope to match up to the contract versus waiting for them to put another whole contract vehicle or task order onto a contract."

The setup also restricts Cyber Command's ability to allocate dollars for services being performed, which can cause a lag in reporting and tracking progress, he said.

As for Unified Platform, which will connect the military services' cyber platforms and capabilities, Schanberger said the command expects to completely transition the program to the Air Force, which has been facilitating the acquisition, in fiscal 2019 but would retain one-third of the governing chairs overseeing the prototype program.

Cyber Command will also have influence over the requirements and what the "first deliverables will be and how that all gets implemented," he said, noting that how things will be carried out was to be determined.

The Unified Platform award was made via the General Services Administration's Alliant Governmentwide Acquisition Contract. Two million dollars in fiscal 2019 funds for operations and maintenance -- including research, development, test and evaluation -- have been obligated since the award on Oct. 26, according to a Pentagon contract notice. Work is expected to finish in three years.

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