OPM Hack Demonstrates Need for Internal Defense of Government Networks     


Office of Personnel Management

The Office of Personal Management (OPM) is the victim of a highly intrusive cyber espionage operation conducted by “Deep Panda”, a state backed Chinese hacker group. The personal information of over 4 million current and former government employees dating back to 1985 has been compromised. Chinese hackers managed to circumvent the much vaunted EINSTEIN 3 cyber intrusion monitoring and blocking system (Sternstein, 2015). Once OPM’s network was penetrated, the hackers were easily able to access government records, as OPM’s personnel data was unencrypted (Perera, 2015). The breach was initially discovered by CyTech Services, which ran diagnostic software of OPM’s network in a sales demonstration in April of 2015.

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DOJ Announces New Guidelines for Domestic Law Enforcement Use of UAVs

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Draganflyer X6 small unmanned aerial system (sUAS)

The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced a series of guidelines for the use of unmanned aerial system by domestic law enforcement and federal agencies. While the DOJ report is fully cognizant of the significant potential for UAS within law enforcement, the document states that all UAS use must conform to existing privacy and civil liberty protections: 

“UAS must be operated consistent with the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures and generally requires law enforcement to seek a warrant in circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Moreover, Department personnel may never use UAS solely for the purpose of monitoring activities protected by the First Amendment or the lawful exercise of other rights secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” – DOJ, 2015 

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Trade Promotion Authority & the Trans-Pacific Partnership

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US trade with TPP negotiating partners. Image Credit: The Wall Street Journal

The United States Senate passed a bill over Memorial Day weekend which would grant the President Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) with respect to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement. The TPA, or “fast track” authority, is critical to securing a final TPP free trade agreement with eleven other countries, as it effectively grants the President authority to negotiate on behalf of the United States. Furthermore, the TPA would limit Congress to a simple up or down vote on the final TPP terms, without the ability to subsequently add amendments pending the conclusion negotiations. The 62-37 vote in favor of the TPA overcame the objections of labor groups and progressives who have railed against the perceived lack of labor protections, secrecy of negotiations, and stringent intellectual property regulations. The House will take up the TPA after returning on June 1st, where it will face numerous hurdles from pro-labor democrats, “poison pill” amendments such as the proposed currency manipulation measure – which the President indicated he would veto, and conservatives, who are hesitant to grant the President negotiating authority on behalf of the United States.

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USCYBERCOM Struggles to Expand – Outsources $475 Million to Private Sector


Fort Meade MD, place of performance for the contract

In late April, the Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization released a request for proposals (RFP) concerning US Cyber Command’s (USCYBERCOM) $475 million indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity omnibus contract.* The RFP outlines 20 services selected contractors will provide:

  • Knowledge Management
  • Records Management
  • Cyber Operations
  • Planning; Science and Technology/Research and Development
  • Cyber Focused Training
  • Cyber Exercise
  • Engagements
  • Logistics
  • Integrated Technology Support
  • CybersecurityProject Analysis
  • Program Management
  • All-source Intelligence
  • Business Process ReengineeringSecurity
  • Strategy and Policy and Doctrine Development
  • Administrative Support
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$20 Billion for the NIH’s CIO-CS IT Contract 


The National Institutes of Health Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) recently awarded its Chief Information Officer–Commodity Solutions (CIO-CS) Government-wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC), valued at $20 billion, to 65 companies. CIO-CS is an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity information technology (IT) contract with a duration of ten years (Boyd, 2015). While the contract is primarily a health IT vehicle, it will also include a host of other services such as deployment and installation, engineering studies, web and video-conferencing, big data, virtualization and health and biomedical IT, maintenance and training, enterprise licenses and extended warranties, and cyber security (NIH, 2015). The NIH incorporated numerous changes into the CIO-CS as a result of the previous Electronic Commodities Store (ECS) III GWAC. 

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Pentagon Acquisition Reform Gains Traction

The inability of the Pentagon to rapidly assimilate new technologies and cut bureaucratic red tape is increasingly being perceived as not merely a poor use of tax dollars, but as a strategic liability by both senior DoD officials and members of Congress (Freedburg, 2015). In a March address to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Chairman John McCain compared the 18 month standard innovation cycle in the private sector to the Pentagon acquisition cycle, which can last for up to 18 years. McCain argued that the glacial pace of Pentagon acquisitions threatens to undermine the nation’s technological superiority, and the inefficient allocation of taxpayer dollars during sequestration further exacerbates the acquisition processes negative impact on national defense. 

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DHS Developments Part II: Coast Guard – Modernization Programs and Service Priorities 

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National security cutter Bertholf, EADS HC-144, and H-65 helicopter

The US Coast Guard (USCG) received $10 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2015, $435.9 million above the Obama Administration’s FY 2015 budget request. The FY 2015 budget, in conjunction with the newly released Navy maritime strategy, A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, provides insight towards future USCG priorities, procurement programs, and sought after capabilities and technologies. 

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Developments in DHS: Part I – Improving Border Security

In early March, Congress passed a $39.7 billion budget for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which is $400 million dollars greater than the enacted FY 2014 levels.  Most components of DHS received a funding increase, but the FY 2015 budget prioritizes a series of initiatives to strengthen border security through hiring new personnel, developing new biometric identification technologies, and supporting previous efforts to improve border infrastructure. Part II of this series on the FY 2015 DHS budget will detail significant increases in the capability of the Coast Guard as a result of the FY 2015 budget, as well as trends within the agency.


CBP MQ-9 "Reaper" UAV

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Upcoming UAS Regulations


DJI Phantom-1 sUAS

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is looking to overhaul laws pertaining to the use of small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS), classified as aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds, within the next year. The released Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) stipulates measures relating to the operation of non-recreational sUAS in terms of height restrictions, aircraft registration, daytime flight restrictions, operator certification, and line of sight restrictions. The NPRM first step in what is likely to be a yearlong process before enforcement of new regulations begins. The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, within the Office of Management and Budget (OBM), is conducting a ninety day review of the sUAS NPRM (Colborn, 2015). The OMB has indicated both the FAA and sUAS community lack adequate safety data.

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FY 2016 Budget Request Part II – Cyber Security Developments and Budget

The President’s FY 2016 budget includes $14 billion for cyber security funding across all federal agencies, including $5.5 billion for the Department of Defense (DoD).  The proposed budget would increase cyber defense spending by ten percent over the enacted FY 2015 budget levels, which is higher than the overall proposed DoD budget increase of seven percent. The increased cyber defense funding within the FY 2016 budget is part of a larger effort by the Federal Government to bolster the nation’s cyber defenses. Other steps taken toward this goal include: the development and integration of new software and systems, increasing the staff of US Cyber Command, Executive Order 13691, and the establishment of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence's new Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center (CTIIC). 


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