FORT MEADE, Md. --- U.S. Cyber Command has begun executing its new "limited acquisition authority" to speed up the acquisitions process for cyber-specific tools, officials here said.
The command awarded its first contract under this new authority Sept. 29 for information technology-related research and technical information services to enhance future acquisition decisions.
The Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act granted Cybercom the authority to acquire, develop and sustain equipment and capability related to cyberspace operations, and to execute contract actions up to $75 million a year, through Sept. 30, 2021.
"Our office spent 2017 putting the right people, processes and policies in place," said Tony Davis, who until recently served as the acting command acquisition executive. Davis returned to U.S. Special Operations Command in September after having led efforts to stand up this authority.
Greater Agility and Flexibility
Typically, combatant commands and their subordinate units have to rely on the services – the Army, Air Force or Navy – or defense agencies to write and execute contracts and to acquire resources to accomplish their mission.
Davis said the new authority provides the command with greater agility and flexibility. It gives Cybercom and the United States "speed, flexibility and a technical knowledge base when providing capabilities for our cyberspace forces in a rapidly changing, worldwide domain," he added.
Mike Zwiebel, who took over for Davis as the acting command acquisition executive in October, agreed.
"This is important because of the dynamic nature of this contested domain," he explained. "The threat environment changes rapidly in cyber, and our ability to respond must be equally agile."
Cyber Command isn't limited to or interested in only buying tools -- it's also about finding the right people and support, Davis said.
"Instead of trying to provide basic details to a separate organization to draft and award contracts, we now have the visibility and capability to make those contracts as tailored as possible," he said. "This makes us more agile by developing very technical, very cyber-specific personnel and support contracts."
Focus and Responsiveness
He also praised the team's focus and responsiveness to meet cyberspace operator needs.
"The people who are doing this limited acquisition are the ones who are most intimately aware of Cybercom's unique requirements," Davis said. "The closer you are to the operator at the point end of the spear, the better you can ensure the [contract] vehicles are tailored to the mission."
Moving forward, Cybercom officials are looking to build more partnerships, starting with the command's first industry day Oct. 27 in Springfield, Virginia. The event is designed to discuss the command's acquisition plans and requirements with government and industry representatives from across the cyber enterprise, Davis said.
After the announcement of the event in August, the 400 available seats filled up in less than a week. There is currently a waiting list for this first event, but the office is already discussing follow-on industry events.
"Future outreach is planned to industry and academia," Davis said. "We hope to be able to have an unclassified space in the future where we can interact with industry and academia. That sort of meeting place is accessible to nontraditional and small businesses, who are often times on the cutting edge of the capabilities we need."