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  • Cyber-warriors Say Darpa is Too Slow
    Posted by David A. Fulghum 8:33 PM on Jun 18, 2010

    Defense and aerospace industry officials say they love the work that Darpa does, but in the cyber-world, the organization is proving itself too slow to be relevant.

    The military and intelligence agencies are frustrated by the prospect of a multi-year development time for a cyber range proposed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) where cyber-offense and defense can be practiced in a full-scale, electronically sterile environment. So they have already started building their own.

    “When cyber-ranges became a topic of interest, [the desire for access] exploded across the services,” says a senior official involved in the project. “Everybody wanted a range, but Darpa’s program was a 6-7 year effort to put a national cyber-range in place. That’s why support eroded. Everybody wanted it quicker.”

    In May 2008, Darpa announced a four-phase National Cyber-Range (NCR) project. Seven teams were picked to prepare plans for phase one – the initial designs, concepts of operation and system demonstrations. The competitors were later pared in Feb. 2010 to two prime contractors – Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory and Lockheed Martin’s Simulations, Training and Support division – for phase two that will see the building and evaluation of prototype ranges.

    “Darpa is committed to phase two,” the official says. “But they appear to be backing away from phase three, the actual building of the range. They got a lot of pushback from the military [and intelligence agencies].”

    These potential customers want a bigger role in determining how and how much they could use the ranges. A historical complaint about Darpa has been its problems with transitioning technology from the laboratory into operational use.

    “The services didn’t want to wait around for Darpa,” the official says. “The Navy’s 10th Fleet cyber-command wants to expand a small range at Network Warfare Command in Little Creek, Va. The National Security Agency wants a range at Fort Meade, Md. And the 24th Air Force wants its own capabilities.”

    In fact, the U.S. Air Force’s Big Safari organization – that for 50 years has quietly built classified intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems on a fast reaction basis – has begun planning and designing a new capability that is being referred to as “Cyber-safari.”

    Big Safari was responsible for creating aircraft like the RC-135W Rivet Joint signals intelligence aircraft, the RC-135S Cobra Ball long-range, infrared, ballistic missile surveillance aircraft, U-2 payloads and put weapons on the Predator A and B remotely piloted aircraft. That kind of fast-moving acquisition structure is considered a requirement for success in the cyber-world.

    Tags: ar99, military, Darpa, cyber-range

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