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Pentagon Police Agency Hit by ‘Catastrophic’ Network Outage

Maksim Kabakou/Shutterstock.com

This story has been updated with Pentagon response and details.  

The agency that manages the Pentagon Police Department and also runs its networks and computers experienced a “catastrophic network technological outage” on Jan. 3, and repairs may not be complete until January 2015, an obscure document on the Federal Business Opportunities website revealed.

A Defense Department spokesman attributed the outage to the failure of a legacy component.

The contracting document, posted on May 2, said the outage experienced by the Pentagon Life Safety System Network and Life Safety Backbone left the Pentagon Force Protection Agency “without access to the mission-critical systems needed to properly safeguard personnel and facilities, rendering the agency blind across the national capital region.”

The Force Protection Agency provides security and services to 100 military buildings in Washington, Maryland and Virginia and reports to the director of administration and management.

The agency estimated it would take six to 12 months to “effect repairs and to upgrade the network core to mitigate future outage risks.” Repairs include recovery of data after the catastrophic network technological outage and upgrade and replacement of switches and routers.

SRA International Inc. won a $56 million contract for the Life Safety System Network in 2008 that expired on April 30. The Washington Headquarters Service, which provides support to Defense organizations in Washington, extended the SRA contract through Oct. 31, with a value of $7.3 million, and a four month option through Feb. 28, 2015, with a total value of $11.4 million.

The sole source contract extension with SRA called for refreshed hardware and software for the Life System Safety Network, a new network design that minimizes single point failure, including dual homing, which reduces the risk of failure.

As the incumbent on Life Safety System Network contract, “SRA is the only known vendor who has expert security-cleared personnel that can immediately accomplish this urgent upgrade given their existing knowledge of the specific LSB technical and architectural challenges, and in-depth knowledge of the existing infrastructure to include the known and potential failure points of an extremely complex environment,” the Washington Headquarters Service said.

Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a Defense Department spokesman, said the Life Safety System Network and Life Safety Backbone experienced the January outage due to the failure of a legacy – or older – network component that he did not identify.

The Life Safety System Network was designed to network security capabilities at the Pentagon and various Defense facilities across the national capital region to provide real-time situational awareness and contingency response, and it is not connected to any other Defense networks, Pickart said.

Within days of the outage, the entire system had been inspected, the component replaced (bypassed) and the Life Safety System Network and Life Safety Backbone brought back online, Pickart said. Both are currently fully operational. At no point during the outage were Pentagon employees or Defense assets vulnerable, he added.

The Pentagon Force Protection Agency was in the process of replacing the network at the time of the outage with the objective of establishing a more reliable, redundant and resilient system to protect personnel and facilities and awarded the sole source contract to SRA to speed up necessary upgrades, Pickart said.

He said the Force Protection Agency is prepared for any contingency that might jeopardize the safety and security of the Pentagon.  The knowledge that system failures can occur is one reason why the Pentagon Force Protection Agency exercises well-established alternate security procedures to ensure Pentagon facilities and employees are protected during any type of safety or security issue.

Correction: This article was updated to eliminate a reference to computers used in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (they do not run on the Pentagon Life Safety System Network) and note that the Pentagon Force Protection Agency reports to the  director of administration and management (DA&M), not Washington Headquarters Services.

(Image via Maksim Kabakou/Shutterstock.com)

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