There is currently no set vision for the keystone training range joint coming to cyberwarriors, and that’s OK, according to the Army.
The Army was designated as the executive agent for all cyber mission force personnel across the joint force on a program known as the persistent cyber training environment, or PCTE.
Contracts have been awarded on the first wave of prototypes for the Department of Defensive's Persistent Cyber Training Environment.
PCTE will serve a critical need for CMF personnel, as they currently don’t have a place on par with facilities like the Army’s National Training Center where they can conduct individual training, collective training or mission rehearsal.
The Army is using a prototyping model, awarding initial contracts with rapid acquisition authorities, in order to better inform requirements before they put the official program out to bid in the 2020 time frame. However, the final direction of the program has yet to be determined.
“With PCTE, it is somewhat disconcerting to have a large-scale, high-interest, highly visible program where you’re briefing Congress about every month and have the courage to not have a well-defined road map moving forward,” Col. Richard Haggarty, project manager for instrumentation, targets, threat simulators and soft training systems within Program Executive Office Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, said Aug. 21 at TechNet Augusta.
“We truthfully do not have a defined blueprint of what PCTE is.”
Col. Steve Rehn, the requirements manager for cyber within the Cyber Center of Excellence, noted during the same presentation that the Army has acknowledged the risk associated with not knowing what the end state is, but they recognize that PCTE will be a constant evolution.
The prototyping phase had to have the two-pronged effect of working out kinks in requirements and getting capability into the hands of cyberwarriors in the interim during the process.
Haggarty told C4ISRNET that they are currently doing a limited user assessment now. Members from all types of CMF teams — offensive, defensive and support — went out for instruction and overview last week and will do hands-on testing for three weeks. The teams will come back in the first week of September and give the PCTE team feedback in order to make small adjustments.
Getting to a final contract
After the prototyping phase, for which the Army has taken on the role of lead systems integrator, there will be an “objective contract” with more concrete requirements industry can bid on. The Army at that point will relent its integration duties.
Between then and now, however, members of industry in the larger companies are concerned for how the Army gets from the current innovation challenges and prototyped contracts to a finalized program that can scale to a cyber mission force that could be dispersed all over the world.
Regarding how they should be investing their research and development dollars for the final program, Haggarty’s response was likely not satisfying to the audience: “I truly can’t define exactly what PCTE 2.0 is going to look like in January. The idea that I can hand industry either a codified written document or a stable vision to influence [internal research and development dollars] in a year or two years, three years, I’ll be honest, I really can’t do that.”
Acknowledging the concern from industry, he said the Army is truly in an agile environment focusing on capability, not just contracts and single vendors.
Input from the joint world
Since PCTE is a joint program, eventually to be owned by U.S. Cyber Command, the Army has to take joint concerns into consideration.
Rehn told C4ISRNET that Cyber Command’s force development directorate has been leading the charge from the Cyber Command perspective.
“As we develop requirements, we’re pretty lockstep where they are to make sure what they need is incorporated in the requirements as well as each of the services,” Rehn said.
He added that there is a governance board within PCTE with members and input from each of the services, the Pentagon, the Joint Staff and the deputy director of Cyber Command to ensure all the key stakeholders can voice an opinion.