Cyber Command is looking to make the most of the extension of its acquisition authority through 2025, but officials are still pushing Congress to raise its contracting cap up to $250 million to better handle large procurement projects such as the Unified Platform project.

Stephen Schanberger, a top Cyber Command acquisition official, told attendees at a Thursday Billington cyber summit that a $75 million acquisition limit continues to hamper the ability to go after innovative capabilities and the command will likely hit its contracting cap in fiscal year 2019.

Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of U.S. Cyber Command
Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of U.S. Cyber Command

“My number one thing about why we need an increase is we are really hamstrung at the moment with the current contract vehicles that are out there. In some cases, we’ve actually had to adjust our scope a little bit to match up to the contracts versus waiting for a better, modified contract to be put out there,” Schanberger said during a Cyber Command panel. “Specifically, we really need the sunset date moved up because that would allow us to at least, as we award contract vehicles, to make them multi-year.”

The recently passed FY ‘19 National Defense Authorization Act included a provision moving up the sunset date of Cyber Command’s acquisition authority up to 2025 from 2021. However, a push to increase the contracting cap from $75 million to $250 million was not included.

Schanberger pointed to the Unified Platform program, an effort to find the first integrated warfighting platform for the Cyber Mission Forces, as a critical capability that Cyber Command is unable to steer on its own due to its large size.

“I don’t believe Cyber Command has the wherewithal right now internally to run something like Unified Platform right now,” Schanberger said. “The plan right now is to transition completely to the Air Force in FY ’19. But there is a governance structure in place to oversee that program.”

The Air Force is serving as the acquisition lead for Unified Platform, which will be awarded through the General Services Administration’s Alliant contract vehicle. Schanberger said Cyber Command will take the role of acquiring and building on capabilities to update Unified Platform.

“We will have a capability going forward that the Air Force will take and build. And I think we’ve finally gotten to a place where we’ve said, yes, we’re going to then take it and build on it more. I think we’re in a decent place. It wasn’t in the very beginning. We had some challenges with the transition, but I think we’ve worked through those,” Schanberger told Defense Daily following the panel.

Northrop Grumman (Defense Daily, September 4) and Lockheed Martin (Defense Daily, March 6), among others, are competing to provide a Unified Platform with an award decision likely before the end of the year.  

Schanberger said, with the acquisition limits, Cyber Command awarded only one contract in FY ’17, around $40 million in FY ’18 and is anticipated to hit the $75 million cap in FY ’19. Cyber Command is working on maturing its acquisition processes to a level where Congress will grant increased authorities, he added.

“Congress would like us to show that we actually can use our authority the way it’s supposed to be used and start to stand up the backbone of what it takes to be a contracting organization,”Schanberger said. “We are in a transition mode of getting out of the mindset that we’re going to buy other people’s contracts that we can use. And, instead, into focused on how get to a place where our first look is to put our own contract in place and how do we put the packages together and then how do we execute.”

Cyber Command, in the meantime, has partnered with the Maryland Innovation and Security Institute (MISI) to open the new DreamPort innovation facility near Ft. Meade in Maryland, where small businesses and start-ups will have the opportunity to pitch innovative solutions and participate in prototyping events.

“We will be doing prototyping there. We will be bringing in technology to work with you. We’ll have a maker space in there that has 3D printers, CNC routers and other cool things that you’d want. It is a geek place. It’s not all just for doing sales,” Karl Gumtow, director of DreamPort, said during the panel.

Gumtow and MISI received the five-year Partnership Intermediary Agreement in May, with plans to open DreamPort in October. The first two Rapid Prototyping events will focus on finding malware signature measurement and Internet of Things, with Cyber Command officials on hand to provide feedback and inform potential future requirements.