Army officials are moving forward with the next phase of their project to develop a new high-fidelity network simulation testing environment for the Department of Defense’s Cyber Mission Forces, aiming to deploy prototype capabilities by July.

The Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training & Instrumentation (PEO STRI) held their latest industry day for the Persistent Cyber Training Environment (PCTE) project on Feb. 1, with officials focusing on enabling increased user access and building content repository for upcoming prototypes.PEO-STRI-Feature-Size-Team-Orlando

“We’d like to get the first drop out this summer. We’re looking at July. It’s not going to be the full capability that we will ultimately have, the PCTE,” Liz Bledsoe, PEO STRI’s acting product manager for cyber resiliency & training, told Defense Daily. “It’ll just be the initial capability, and we’re using an agile process to iteratively provide capability to the PCTE platform until we’ve met all the requirement goals.”

PEO STRI took on the project to develop PCTE capabilities for all Cyber Mission Forces across the services in Oct. 2015. Officials began with a first Cyber Innovation Challenge in the fall of 2016 to conduct market research to find existing industry capabilities that could be integrated into high-fidelity network simulators.

The industry day on Feb. 1 was the beginning of the second Cyber Innovation Challenge, where potential vendors were asked to focus on capabilities to help develop an “Order Portal,” or web-enabled user interface, and the “Content Repository” for tracking training management.  

A request for white papers was published on Jan. 26, and interested industry partners have until Feb. 23 to submit proposals.

Bledsoe said industry representatives were told to bring their experience dealing with cyber vulnerabilities on their large networks to help PEO STRI solve issues with integrating PCTE capabilities into a cohesive systems.

“All our market research is saying that quite a lot of [these capabilities] are already out there. This cyber defense problem we have for virtual networks is not just a DoD problem. So then we can look and see what’s out there already,” she said. “The hard part for us is not developing it from the ground up. The hard for us is integrating it into a cohesive system that provides that high fidelity training that the Cyber Mission Forces need to be successful.”

The PCTE is meant to increase the quality of Cyber Mission Force training, while improving on the ability to reuse high-fidelity training environment to emulate more complex cyber attack scenarios.

Officials hope standardizing training simulators across the services with PCTE will improve Cyber Mission Forces preparedness for new cyber threats, according to Bledsoe.

“With the teams right now you can’t tell the fidelity of training they’ve received because they’re not trained on the system. And we really need a higher fidelity environment, because they’re really not learning as much as they could if they were in a real network environment that was connected and had traffic-generation and everything,” Bledsoe said.  

PEO STRI officials are seeking capabilities that produce operationally relevant scenarios, user-friendly tools, reduced time to establish training environments and improved integration and support services.

The next phase of capabilities will be delivered in six-month drops, according to Bledsoe.

Registered participants at the Feb. 1 industry day included AT&T [T], Booz Allen Hamilton [BAH], Cisco Systems [CSCO], CSRA [CSRA] Israel’s Elbit Systems [ESLT], IBM [IBM], Leidos [LDOS], Northrop Grumman [NOC], Raytheon [RTN] and SAIC [SAIC].