Maryland National Air Guard to build a new cyber center

The move by the 175th Wing reflects the growing role the Guard and Reserves are playing in cyber defense.

In a move that reflects the National Guard’s expanding role in the nation’s cyber defenses, the 175th Wing of the Maryland Air National Guard has announced plans to build a cyber/intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance facility to house a network warfare group and ISR squadron. 

In a presolicitation notice, the wing, located at Warfield Air National Guard Base in Baltimore, said it plans to issue a request for proposals for a two-story, 27,500 square-foot structure to accommodate its cyber program, with 70 percent of the building space to be considered a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.

The wing said its cyber mission is to “enable the cyber operational need for an always-on, net-speed awareness and integrated operational response with global reach,” the presolicitation states. “It enables operators to drive upstream in pursuit of cyber adversaries, and is informed 24/7 by intelligence and all-source information.”

This is not the first time this same Guard unit has sought such a facility. Nearly exactly a year ago, the 175th issued an almost identical presolicitation, which it later cancelled.

The Defense Department is giving high priority to building up its cyber mission force, with the Guard and Reserves playing a large role. “Throughout the course of this strategy, DoD will draw on the National Guard and Reserve Components as a resource for expertise and to foster creative solutions to cybersecurity problems,”  according to DOD’s cyber strategy.

“There’s a great untapped, not yet fully tapped resource … which is our Guard and Reserve” that will help DOD utilize “the best technology embedded in our military – defending [the network] so that others can’t disrupt it or exploit it, using cyber offensively as necessary and required,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in May.

DOD’s latest iteration of its cyber strategy looks to define and refine the Guard’s role in supporting law enforcement. “National Guard forces will exercise to coordinate, train, advise, and assist state and local agencies and domestic critical infrastructure and to provide support to law enforcement, Homeland Defense, and Defense Support of Civil Authorities activities in support of national objectives,” the strategy states.

“The initial goal is to have Guard cyber capability in each of the 10 Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, districts…We're on a path to that,” Gen. Frank J. Grass, National Guard Bureau chief told lawmakers, noting the Guard will stand up 11 cyber teams this summer. Grass added that he is committed governors to expanding this capability to every state that can support it. 

The Guard’s cyber operations are also part of the National Cyber Incident Response Plan, released by the Homeland Security Department in 2010. National Cyber Incident Response Plan, released by the Homeland Security Department in September 2010 Guard units in several states have begun working toward greater cyber agility, through such things as red team exercises in Washington and the establishment of cyber response teams in Maryland, Delaware, Utah and Rhode Island. 

The 175th stated that it plans tentatively for a solicitation date of July 17 with a pre-proposal conference on or about July 22 and a closing date tentatively scheduled for on-or-about August 18.  The 175th was clear to point out that “This solicitation is not a competitive bid and there will not be a formal public bid opening.”

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