A Big Cyber Procurement is Coming for the DoD Persistent Training Environment
Buried deep inside the fourth volume of the Army’s Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) budget request for fiscal 2017 is an investment called Cyberspace Operations Forces and Force Support. A new start for FY 2017, Cyberspace Operations Support is a roundabout way of saying “training” for the Department of Defense’s cyber forces; training that in this case comes in the form of a system called the Persistent Training Environment. The PTE is a requirement that evolved in November 2015 out of “Cyber Range Evaluation of Alternatives (EOA) Findings and Issue Paper Deliberations” at the Pentagon. A copy of the EOA deliberations could not be found for this post, but the gist of the PTE described in the Army’s RDT&E document is that the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics and the J6 of the Joint Chiefs of Staff concluded that the rapid expansion of the DoD’s cyber forces had made it necessary to develop a single training environment, or cyber range, for all DoD personnel. Implementing such a system would solve the problem of cyber warriors training in disparate environments according to different standards and using different tools.
The PTE is thus envisioned as an effort to unify the DoD’s cyber ranges and training resources into a single environment that is scalable and extendable to Defense facilities and personnel around the world. The terms “scalable,” “virtual,” and “extendable” are key here because the documentation lacks specific requirements for the system. Considering the three terms just mentioned, it becomes clear that the DoD envisions the PTE to be a cloud-based system securely accessible through the DoD Information Network (DoDIN). This fact renders the PTE one of the most potentially profitable cloud procurements planned to come out of the DoD in the next several years.
The budget request for the PTE is $256M altogether, with the first year being FY 2017 and extending out to FY 2021.
Frustratingly few details about the PTE exist. What has been reported is that FY 2017 funds will support initial pilot activities. We also know that the Army plans to award a contract for the PTE pilot effort before Q2 of FY 2017. Work on the pilot is anticipated to begin in Q2 of FY 2017. However, given the glacial pace of Defense procurement and the fact that no pre-solicitation or sources sought notice has yet appeared in public (assuming one will be publicly released), it is highly likely that this procurement schedule will slip by at least two quarters, if not an entire fiscal year.
Once the PTE is procured, it will consist of four parts:
Event Management (FY 2017 budget $10.5M) - Dedicated event scheduling, allocation, and management functions for event design, planning and execution, supported by standardized training assessment tools and capabilities.
- Environment (FY 2017 budget $10M) - Operate the PTE with realistic vignettes/scenarios as part of a system (syllabus) of individual and collective training that includes certification and real-world mission rehearsals.
- Connectivity (FY 2017 budget $10M) - On-Demand reliable, secure physical and virtual global access from wherever participants are geographically located. A core cyber exercise network and event management platform with access to the full suite of DoD, Service, Interagency, Multinational, and States’ distributed systems.
- Training Sites (FY 2017 budget $10M) - Capability to enable and provide the Cyber Mission Force to connect to the PTE from Base, Post, Camp, Station, or Deployed Locations for distributed cyber training, certification, and major training events.
The details above are all that is known about the forthcoming PTE procurement. The Army’s RDT&E documentation makes it clear that as of last February the acquisition strategy for the PTE was still being discussed at the highest administrative levels, including the Army, USCYBERCOM, the USD (P&R), the Joint Staff, and the other Armed Services. Given the number of organizations involved in planning this effort it is safe to say that there is time for industry to position itself for the acquisition. As the designated DoD acquisition lead for the PTE, the procurement ought to come out of an Army command. The best guess is that will be Army Cyber Command at Ft. Gordon, Georgia, but based on previous experience with cyber ranges the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) is also a viable candidate.
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