The Department of Defense cyber community knows it has a critical need for a centralized platform for cyberwarriors, so the joint community is collaborating to ensure the final system has everything everyone needs.
The Unified Platform, as it’s known, will serve as the aircraft carrier, airplane or tank, so to speak, from which cyberwarriors plan and launch attacks.
“We’re working with Cyber Command to make sure we’ve got the requirement right for Unified Platform,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Fogarty, commander of Army Cyber Command, said during a keynote presentation at TechNet Augusta in August.
He said there was a meeting in August to define what the Unified Platform is and what it is not as to develop it appropriately.
“Where I think we’ve got to ensure is we don’t make this so large that it just becomes unsustainable ... this very bloated program,” he told Fifth Domain in an interview during the same conference.
There was some initial confusion with the Unified Platform, as it was conflated with the Military Cyber Operations Platform, Fogarty said. MCOP has been described in the past as the sum total of portfolios and capabilities Cyber Command’s Capabilities Development Group manages with MCOP being CDG’s top project.
Others have described MCOP as an environment that will include the Unified Platform along with other services like analytics. In the most recent budget request, DoD asked for $52.4 million in fiscal 2019 under “Joint Common Services,” to include continued development of MCOP.
Fogarty noted that while MCOP was the umbrella and the Unified Platform was one component underneath, sometimes the totality of MCOP was miscast as the Unified Platform, despite the Unified Platform being a more discrete piece of that.
Fogarty added that there is a good understanding of what the essential elements of the Unified Platform are outside of what the services have been directed to do, noting there have been some good sessions with U.S. Cyber Command recently, who is the principal requirement owner.
While the Air Force is serving as the executive agent for the program, Cyber Command’s acquisition executive, speaking Sept. 6 at the Billington Cybersecurity Summit in Washington, said the full transition of the program to the Air Force won’t occur until fiscal 2019.
The official, Stephen Schanberger, said that while Cyber Command as the requirements owner for the program has a lot of influence to drive the first few deliverables and how they are implemented, each service cyber component will have their say in the program.
This is especially important as the Unified Platform will be used by joint forces across Cyber Command.
While the force is still working its way through what the exact elements of the Unified Platform will be, Fogarty said there is no reason to start from scratch.
“There are things we’re operating with today that we think offer promise to actually just be transitioned over and that becomes the base that you build off of,” he said.
“It doesn’t make any sense, at least from the Army perspective, that we take capability that actually has proven to work and then you say yea, we’re not interested in that, at least consider it.”
Fogarty believes the force is in a good spot currently where all the options are still open.
Schanberger noted that the community is still going down the original path envisioned when Cyber Command began the prototype, adding the exact path forward is still to be determined.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.