DCO’s Forge can mean big business for industry

By Brittney M. Brown, DCO Strategic Communications

Defensive Cyber Operations (DCO) is stepping up its game to bring more vendors to the Army’s procurement table. The project manager (PM) is merging a new innovation center called the Forge, with its rapid and agile acquisition methodology known as the Cyber Operations Broad Responsive Agreement (COBRA) Other Transaction Authority (OTA).

The Forge is a centralized facility located at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, used as a one-stop shop to identify, assess, integrate and procure defensive cyber prototypes. The prototypes are then delivered to cyber protection brigades (CPBs), which are charged with defending the Army’s network.

The facility is multifaceted. At times, it’s an industry tradeshow venue where vendors can showcase their products in response to DCO solicitations. In contrast to traditional tradeshows, however, companies receive on-the-spot evaluations by DCO personnel and stakeholders. By the end of an event, vendors are notified whether they can continue on in the solicitation process. A recent DCO tradeshow event, called the Forge Storm, attracted more than 200 industry participants.

Lt. Col. Scott Helmore, Product Manager Cyber Platforms and Systems, and
Eric Barry, CPS IT Specialist, meet with a Forge Storm vendor on May 1, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Brittney Brown)

“The concept of the Forge Storm is a rarity,” said Christian Sorenson, an industry participant in the event. “We seldom have the exposure to directly discuss our products with end users. Today, we were able to tailor our conversations with stakeholders of what solutions we have to offer.”

In addition to stakeholder interaction, the Forge’s on-site contracting office may pique the interest of industry. The office, run by Army Contracting Command – Rock Island

(ACC-RI), means vendors can leave events like the Forge Storm, with check in hand. ACC-RI is utilizing the COBRA OTA for the immediate purchase of prototypes, and is a critical element of the Forge construct.

“In cyber, we can’t afford to wait on long processes. We need industry solutions today,” said Joe Kobsar, director of Applied Cyber Technologies, which manages the Forge. “We’re enabled by the Forge and the COBRA OTA to get those capabilities into the hands of Soldiers today.

A Forge Storm vendor prepares to demonstrate his company’s defensive cyber product. (U.S. Army photo by Brittney Brown)

As a result of the Forge-COBRA coalition, industry partners have witnessed

tangible returns on investments. To start, DCO has awarded $24 million to industry in prototype procurements within the past 15 months. Since its inception in December 2018, the Forge has facilitated nearly $10 million of that total. DCO predicts that another $6 million will be awarded within the next two months. While traditional vendors have a place at the Forge, DCO is also looking to procure solutions from non- traditional contractors like start-ups or academia, as well.

“We’re changing the way we partner with industry,” said Col. Chad Harris, DCO project manager. “We’ve created a space that allows for true collaboration and an avenue to seek solutions from a variety of cyber experts.”

In addition to the CPBs, four other stakeholders have an ongoing presence at the Forge. They include the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, Army Training and Doctrine Command, the System of Systems Consortium and U.S. Army Cyber Command (ARCYBER)

“Within a short timeframe, the Forge has already created opportunities for the government and private industry to collaborate, research and develop innovative practices to ensure ARCYBER has the right technology at the right time and timeliness is crucial to our mission,” said Chief Warrant Officer Joseph Mercado, ARCYBER technical advisor.

The Forge has been in initial operating capability since December 2018, and DCO hosted its official ribbon cutting for the facility on May 22, 2019.