recommended reading

$6 Billion Cyber Monitoring Initiative Falls Victim to Shutdown

Andrea Danti/

The Obama administration, apparently because of the shutdown, has halted work orders for a $6 billion network threat-surveillance system scheduled to be deployed governmentwide, a key project contractor said. 

McAfee officials said they expected the administration to issue vendors specific information technology tasks this week, but that is very unlikely due to the lapse in federal funding. McAfee is supporting 10 of the 17 prime contractors awarded potential five-year deals in August to offer "continuous monitoring" of vulnerabilities, such as unauthorized users on networks. Agencies essentially would be allowed to select among each contractor’s bundled sensors, risk-status displays and professional consulting services. 

Ken Kartsen, vice president of McAfee Federal, said in an email that the company is "waiting for continuous monitoring to become a reality." Having the technology in place will give government an extra resource in situations such as shutdowns, he said, but ironically, the shutdown is probably delaying the issuance of the continuous monitoring contract task orders.

Once the program deploys, central "dashboard" displays will show the Homeland Security Department "what’s going on across all the civilian agencies," he said. "In the meantime, IT managers have to remain especially vigilant.”

In August, the General Services Administration, which assisted in the acquisition, created a webpage  for agencies wanting to reserve continuous monitoring packages. GSA's shutdown plans for this week -- embedded in a link on the page -- state the department "will not accept new orders for workspace, products, or services except when they are needed by the ordering agency to support excepted or exempt activities." 

DHS, the agency responsible for protecting civilian networks, is paying the bill to roll out the surveillance technology governmentwide. As recently as Sept. 13, DHS officials told the Government Accountability Office, in a letter, that "leveraging available federal funding," the department "will deliver continuous diagnostics tools and services to participating federal civilian agencies." 

DHS officials did not respond to a request for comment. GSA officials were not immediately able to comment. 

The White House has called for continuous monitoring since 2010, but many agencies do not have enough knowhow or funding to handle the near real-time attention required. Almost a third of agencies went without continuous monitoring programs in 2012, according to federal inspectors general.

The automated checking is intended to help human managers notice oddities in networks, diagnose the problems and their associated risks, and then prioritize fixes.  

It remains to be seen how project interruptions will affect contractor jobs. In separate interviews, several cyber consultants working for various federal departments said either that meetings have not been cancelled yet or that delays have not been too impactful. 

This story has been updated with additional information from McAfee. 

(Image via Andrea Danti/

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.