Display with system code.

Display with system code. Image via Flickr user Yuri Samoilov

$460M CYBERCOM Contract Will Create Digital Munitions

Meanwhile, the military’s digital command hopes to recruit 6,200 operatives to thwart hacks against the US, aid troops overseas, and protect dot-mil.

The first job under a forthcoming $460 million U.S. Cyber Command contract to outsource all mission support involves, among other activities, a lot of digital munitions-making.

An 84-page draft task order released Sept. 30 runs the gamut of hacking and counterhacking work, plus traditional IT support activities.

The proposed solicitation was accompanied by a 114-page draft of the full 5-year contract. In May, CYBERCOM officials cancelled a similar $475 million project announced earlier that month. At the time, officials explained a reorganized request for bids with more details would be out in the fall. 

The initial work order will support "cyber joint munitions effectiveness" — by developing and deploying — "cyber weapons" and coordinating with "tool developers" in the spy community, the documents state. In addition, the prospective vendor will plan and execute joint “cyber fires.” 

CYBERCOM is in the midst of recruiting 6,200 cyberwarriors for teams positioned around the world. The command’s duty is to thwart foreign hackers targeting the United States, aid U.S. combat troops overseas and protect the dot-mil network.  

In the past, some military academics have voiced concerns about the unintended outcomes of such maneuvers. Malicious code released into networks could backfire and harm U.S. individuals or allies, they warned.

"Due to the 'system of systems' nature" of cyberspace, it is very difficult to know exactly what effect" defensive or offensive actions will have on U.S. and ally assets "since we can’t be sure exactly how far out the cyber action might spread," Dee Andrews and Kamal Jabbour wrote in a 2011 article for Air Force Space Command's Journal for Space & Missile Professionals. "The difficulty in doing a damage estimate before cyber action is taken makes cyber friendly fire difficult to identify and mitigate." 

There are dozens of bullet points on training support work in the contracting documents.

For example, the hired contractor will run exercises on "USCYBERCOM Fires processes" with the Joint Advanced Cyber Warfare Course, the Army Cyberspace Operations Course, the Air Force Weapons School, the Joint Targeting School and other outside groups, the documents state. 

Certain contract personnel supporting these so-called cyber fires will be subjected to additional background reviews and will have to comply with "need-to-know" classification rules, according to officials. 

Beyond unleashing malware, the chosen contract employees will help repel attacks on Defense Department smartphones housing sensitive data, according to the government. This assignment involves analyzing forensics reports on hacked mobile devices and conducting security assessments of mobile apps, among other things. 

There also is some cyber espionage work entailed. The selected contractor will aid the "fusion," or correlation of clues, from "reliable sources," network sensors, network scans, open source information, and "situational awareness of known adversary activities,” the documents state 

The professionals hired will probe lurking, well-resourced threats inside military networks and identify "signatures" of the hacker footprints discovered, they add. The signatures, such as IP addresses and strings of code, will be used to determine if there is malicious activity elsewhere inside Pentagon and defense industry networks, according to officials. 

Another CYBERCOM duty will be proposing procedures for facilitating "all-source intelligence analysis of the foreign threat picture" -- information collected from spies, data surveillance, public information and other inputs. 

A final comprehensive solicitation and task order are scheduled to be released later this month. The government is accepting questions about the drafts from companies until Oct. 7.