The first capability contracts for the Army’s new cyber threat training environment are set to be awarded by the end of May with a delivery for training tools slated for July, according to an official from Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training & Instrumentation (PEO STRI).
Army officials are readying the first capability drop for the Persistent Cyber Training Environment (PCTE) project after a delay in defining requirements for the new effort to train the Department of Defense’s Cyber Mission Forces on network defense operations.
PEO STRI is running “Cyber Innovation Challenges” (CIC) every 90 days with industry to find capabilities that meet the most pressing PCTE requirements. The first CIC started in November 2016 and the subsequent capability is expected for a July delivery.
“[CIC #1] moved much slower than we wanted it to or expected to, but quite frankly I’m not sure that we had defined enough requirements to move any faster,” Liz Bledsoe, PEO STRI acting product manager, told Defense Daily. “The first Cyber Innovation Challenge was basically a shotgun blast for the entire requirement. And we’re very near awarding that finally. Now we’re starting to get more specific in what we want as far as capability in Cyber Innovation Challenge #2.”
Bledsoe said four unnamed companies are expected to receive the first contract out of CIC #1 by the end of May to deliver a training capability.
A second CIC began in February and focused on finding a knowledge management system for the PCTE content repository. A contract for CIC #2 is also expected in May with a capability drop slated for January 2019.
The delay in setting requirements dragged out the first CIC, but Bledsoe said PEO STRI officials are looking to deliver capabilities at a more rapid pace now that the process is defined.
The next step for PCTE will include more user feedback from the Cyber Mission Forces with the intention of tweaking capabilities based on limited developmental testing.
“We’re moving incredibly fast now, and I really think the way we’re going to be successful is if we continue to have user in the loop on this in providing the PCTE capability,” Bledsoe said. “It’s going to be pretty rough, but we think it’s a good way to gather feedback from the user community, so that as we continue to go forward we’re doing it in a way that’s relevant to them and helps improve the capability.”
There are currently three more CIC’s planned with PCTE capability drops expected every six months, according to Bledsoe.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis told lawmakers at an April 24 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that PCTE will play an important role in the training aspect of any future DoD cyber doctrine.
“We’ve got to get in place a Persistent Cyber Training Environment to bring [CMF’s] to the top of their game,” Mattis said.
Bledsoe said PEO STRI briefed congressional staffers the week of April 15 on the status of PCTE, but she was surprised to hear Mattis refer directly to the program during his testimony.
“To tell you the truth, that kind of scares me that Secretary Mattis even knew what PCTE was. I can understand talking about the need for cyber training and the effects on our readiness, but I’m surprised he mentioned that specifically. That just tells me how much high-level attention we’re getting,” Bledsoe said.