DCO activates prototype strategy and delivers to Cyber Command

By Brittney M. Brown, DCO Strategic Communications

Last year, Defensive Cyber Operations (DCO) devised a plan to deliver defensive cyber capability to Soldiers at a continuous, rapid and relevant pace. This year, DCO is putting that plan into action.

The implemented plan uses a three-pronged process to meet stakeholder requirements, including: the use of the Other Transaction Authority (OTA), industry consortia and a DCO facility called the Forge.

OTAs are purchasing agreements between agencies and industry that differ from traditional contracts. They offer a “try before you buy” process where prototypes are quickly acquired and evaluated against stakeholder requirements. The quick turnaround of prototypes procured through OTAs is beneficial to stakeholders who operate in critical, time- sensitive environments. DCO’s main stakeholders are the Army’s Cyber Protection Teams (CPTs), whose missions call for relevant defensive cyber products.

DCO is currently granting OTAs to industry vendors within the Systems of Systems Consortium (SOSSEC). Consortia are associations comprised of industry-specific members, e.g., vendors that offer  defensive cyber solutions. Members can compete for OTAs individually or leverage the expertise of other vendors and collectively compete for an agreement. SOSSEC Senior Vice President Gene Del Coco says OTAs give vendors an incentive to establish transparent partnerships with other members, which in return provide the very best solutions to clients.

“DCO’s use of the OTA process is groundbreaking for our members,” said Del Coco. “The process quickly puts capital in the pockets of vendors, which is especially important to smaller companies who have great solutions, but are otherwise unable to compete with larger companies. The OTA will encourage traditional and non- traditional contractors to collaborate to produce a better product.”

The Forge pulls the pieces of OTAs and consortia together and adds stakeholders to the mix. The facility is a physical, centralized space where stakeholders and industry can conduct capability demonstrations, prototype testing, capability integration, and award OTAs.

“The Forge and the use of OTAs help mitigate the guessing game and the consortium allows us to properly leverage industry expertise,” said Col. Harris, project manager for

DCO. “In standard acquisition processes, industry and stakeholders can be kept in the dark about product usability until the capability is fully developed and delivered. By then, we’ve not only wasted contract dollars on equipment that’s useless to Soldiers, but we’ll also have to re-start the process of acquiring new solutions.”

DCO’s first experiment of the OTA-consortium-Forge concept was the purchase of the deployable DCO system (DDS) modular prototype. DDS modular is a deployable, multi- configurable hardware kit that can be easily transported on commercial aircraft or other means of transportation.

Soldiers like CW3 Khamisi Bell, of the Western Cyber Protection Center, will depend on DDS kits to execute their missions within the CPT. Bell was one of the first end users to participate in the OTA-consortium-Forge process.

“The advantage of interacting with industry at such an early stage in product development, is our ability as users to determine if the equipment can actually meet our needs,” said Bell. “We also get to explore what capability gaps we need to fill while leveraging the industry input.”

The DDS Modular OTA was granted to Sealing Tech in February 2019. Since then, Soldiers from Fort Gordon, Georgia have collaborated with the company to further develop the DDS model showcased in November 2018.

The Forge operates under DCO’s Applied Cyber Technologies division, and is managed by Director Joe Kobsar. “The Forge is our gateway to innovation,” Kobsar said. “We’re proud that we’ve been able to provide a space where everyone has a seat at the table and can ensure that our Soldiers have what they need to defend the Army’s enterprise network.”