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Competition for Cyber Talent Drives New Army and DHS Efforts

There is rarely a day that goes by when you won’t see a top story on cybersecurity and the scarcity of people with the right IT security skills to address the growing challenges. It is this very demand for skilled cybersecurity staff that is driving some new, creative, and some might say bold efforts by the Army and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to raise up, recruit, and retain talent.

The Department of Defense (DoD) may be the one federal entity where building a cyber workforce is the most prominent, as they continue to grow a cadre of uniformed cyberwarriors to staff various cyber commands and other network defense organizations, like the Joint Task Force-DoD Information Networks (JTF-DoDIN). However, building the force is only part of the challenge. Once their tour of service commitment is fulfilled these skilled cyberwarriors often have the attractive option to land high-paying jobs in the private sector, so the sustainability of a cyber-force is a major DoD priority.

Recognizing these realities is a driving force behind the establishment of the Army Reserve's Cyber Private Public Partnership, or Cyber P3, among the DoD, universities and private employers. In recent comments in a story by Nextgov, Cyber P3 program manager Lt. Col. Scott Nelson said that the program is trying to answer key questions of "how do we retain the investment the Army made in that soldier" and also "allow them to get a really good job with our industry partners?"

Maximizing the return on investment in cybersecurity personnel is not the only item on the Cyber P3 agenda. They also want to enhance the pipeline of skilled cyber personnel through building parallel cybersecurity education and training programs among military and universities. In that pursuit, several universities, companies and federal agencies are collaborating on the effort with the goal of establishing 3,500 to 5,000 Army reserve cyberwarriors that can be at the ready when the need arises. Among the 21 private companies that have already stepped up to help transition service members into civilian careers include Citibank, Microsoft, Fox Entertainment and Chevron, according to the Nextgov report. (Read more about Cyber-P3 here and here.)

The Pentagon is not the only federal agency looking to industry to bolster its long-term cybersecurity posture. The Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced at the RSA Conference in San Francisco that DHS is opening a cybersecurity branch office in Silicon Valley to “strengthen critical relationships… and ensure that the government and the private sector benefit from each other’s research and development.” Collaboration and synergy is not the only thing on Johnson’s mind, however. He’s recruiting. He intends to “convince some of the talented workforce in Silicon Valley to come to Washington,” highlighting the new United States Digital Service program that provides mechanisms for tech talent in private industry to complete a “tour of service” within government agencies. But on a more formal level, Johnson is “on the hunt” for a cybersecurity “all-star” to head up DHS' National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), promising a direct reporting and communications line to the department Secretary, i.e. Himself.  

These efforts, and others, underscored the ongoing urgency and scope expansion of cybersecurity into nearly every area of modern life. As the “Internet of Things” (IoT) continues to march on – bringing digitization, sensor-ization and connectivity to everything from communications to home appliances and motor vehicles – securing this infrastructure from exploitation and destruction becomes even more critical. Further, the farther down the cybersecurity road we go, the more it becomes apparent that there is only so much we may be able to automate with tools – at least for now. This is especially true when it comes to decision-making and rapid response. Skilled people are critical, in high demand, and in short supply.

These efforts by the DoD, DHS, and others will take time to build the pipeline necessary to meet the demand. It will likely take years, not a cheerful prospect when one considers the growing threats we face. Meanwhile, the competition for these skills will remain fierce. 

DoD Cloud Innovation, Part 2: Cloud-Enabled Modular Services

Last week’s post examined research related to mobile cloudlets as part of cloud computing innovation at the Department of Defense.  This week’s post continues the focus on cloud innovation by diving into work the DoD has contracted for cloud-enabled modular services related to expanding use of virtual training solutions.
Multiple trends have driven a shift over the last decade toward greater use of virtual training by the Military Departments.  First, evolving technology has provided warfighters with the ability to train in virtual environments using mobile devices, sensors, greater throughout capability, and back-end tremendous computing power for modeling and simulation applications.  Second, fiscal necessity has made the use of enterprise technological solutions imperative.  Both of these trends should gather strength in fiscal 2015 and beyond.
The Evolution of Joint Training
Way back in 2002, as a result of the exercise Millennium Challenge, a concept for Joint, Live, Virtual, Constructive (JLVC) training emerged at the DoD.  This concept evolved over the next decade into the JLVC 2020, a next-generation approach to training that emphasized the use of modular modeling and simulation services hosted in a cloud environment.  The idea behind the modular approach was to provide a standardized, flexible, and reusable training solution that promised significant cost reductions across the department.  The hosting of modules in a cloud environment further maximized the possibility of reuse beyond the confines of training-specific simulation centers, to include even coalition and NATO partners.  In short, all of the Services could be on the same page when it came to the training they experienced, thus enhancing the “joint” nature of contemporary military operations.
Current State and Work Ahead
The road to cloud-enabling JLVC 2020 is a long one that will require a budgetary commitment of approximately $75+ million over the period FY 2014 to FY 2018, according to one estimate from 2012.
Efforts currently underway include:
  • Continuing development and refinement of the JLVC 2020 strategy, roadmap, and conceptual design coordinated with the Services, Combatant Commands, coalition partners, agencies, and DOD modeling and simulation community to deliver a future joint training environment reliant on cloud-enabled modular services.  Initial capability is expected in FY 2016 and full operational capability in FY 2019.
  • Continuing construction of the Joint Training Enterprise Architecture decomposing modeling and simulation, networking, and IT applications into a cloud-enabled modular service supporting Combatant Command and Service joint training requirements.
  • Conducting JLVC 2020 Integration Events #2 and #3 to prepare for initial limited operational capability.
This work will be carried out in parallel with the standing up of the DoD’s Joint Information Environment.  In fact, the creation of the JIE is a driving force behind the joint training concept as it provides the infrastructure across which cloud-based “Simulation-as-a-Service” will be delivered.  DoD budget documents note that the Cloud-Enabled Modular Services for JLVC 2020, or CEMS, for short, will be hosted in the “JIE cloud.”  This likely means DISA’s new milCloud capability.  However, as DISA continues to certify commercial infrastructure providers, vendors there is always the possibility that the DoD will move JLVC 2020 to a commercially-hosted environment.
Lastly, who’s doing the work providing the CEMS for JLVC 2020?  The available evidence points to a single contractor – Roland & Associates – the builder of the Joint Theater Level Simulation (JTLS) capabilities that are to be transitioned into CEMS through reuse of as much JTLS algorithms and parametric data as possible.


Army Requests $275M for Training-Related IT in FY 2014

Over the last few years, top Army IT officials have said that one of the goals of the Service’s network modernization is to enable CONUS-based personnel (now a majority in the Army) to “train as they fight.” Major General Alan Lynn, the commander of Army Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM) reiterated this point recently in comments that he made to Army Signal Command Public Affairs. Noting declining Army funding, MG Lynn stated: “What the chief of staff of the Army wants for the future is a live, virtual, and constructive environment. When funding goes down, at some point training stops. With a virtual environment, you can actually have some helicopters flying, with some folks behind a screen; you have some Humvees driving with some folks behind a screen. Everything is happening all at once."

This statement reflects the fact that over the last decade the U.S. Army’s dependency on network services has created an inextricable link between IT and kinetic warfare. Therefore, if the Army is to truly maintain the readiness of its combat personnel, it must spend on the resources and IT infrastructure that its soldiers and commanders require.

This priority is reflected in a portion of the Army’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2014, which requests $275 million to fund 39 technology investments related to Army training needs. Of these investments, 11 have associated Development, Modernization, and Enhancement (DME) dollars (See table below) amounting to $212 million, or 77%, of the total funding requested.

The green shading indicates that in 10 out of 11 cases, DME dollars equal 100% of the requested amount for that project. Clearly, the importance of technology to enable training is translating into a goodly amount of development dollars in FY 2014. Development dollars often translate into procurements. It is just a matter of determining which acquisitions are worth paying attention to.

This said, some DME dollars might find their way into the Train, Educate, and Coach (TEACH) services contract vehicle being competed by the Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training & Instrumentation (PEO STRI). I suspect, however, that most of the money will either show up in smaller procurements for the individual components on the list above or it will fund requirements currently being fulfilled. The table below provides a list of competitions and awarded contracts relevant to the investments above.

As we can see, most DME dollars are likely going to fund contract efforts that are already in place. This is not necessarily the case for efforts related to the Combat Training Center- Instrumentation System (CT-IS) and the Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer (AVCATT), however, both of which have requested 100% DME funding totaling $121 million. Pursuing potential work related to the CTC Military Operations on Urban Terrain Instrumentation System (CTC MOUT IS) is also a possibility, but determining where those dollars are heading will take research beyond the scope of this post. Suffice it to say that in FY 2014 the available business opportunity related to Army IT training requirements amounts to $121 million.