Air Force prepares to open cyberwarfare simulation center to outside users

U.S. Air Force

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The service expects to offer a contract for the Joint Cyberspace Operations Range by January 2013.

The Air Force is slated to open a virtual cyberwarfare program to more military commands, educational institutions and other federal agencies, contracting papers indicate. The Air Force Network Integration Center Joint Cyberspace Operations Range at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois plans to begin expansion around Jan. 15, 2013, a draft acquisition notice states.

The service is expected to vet vendor proposals mid-August through mid-September for the maximum five-year contract. The program is part of the Pentagon’s existing Joint Cyberspace Operations Range that runs troops through training, accreditation and simulated warfighting exercises. Current members include the Air Force, Navy, National Guard Bureau and U.S. Strategic Command.

“It is envisioned additional [combatant commands], services, schoolhouses and agencies will utilize this requirement for supporting simulator-based cyberspace operations education, training, crew certification and exercise events,” Air Force officials said in contracting documents.

Last week, top military officials from various services warned lawmakers that a looming budget retrenchment could undermine efforts to retain and train enough troops to operate in cyberspace.

“The primary purpose of this work effort and JCOR,” according to the draft solicitation, is “to conduct cyber force development and validate the processes and procedures, and operation of cyber systems.” Officials, however, said they reserve the right to cancel the procurement at any time.

Whichever firm wins the business will be responsible for training, along with creating educational materials and providing technical support. It also will be required to engineer the network simulations.

In September, the Air Force surveyed the contractor marketplace to better understand the private sector workforce’s talents and current capabilities. The service asked for details on personnel’s ability to, on short notice, develop curriculums, plan exercises, write student tests and design systems.

The Air Force specifically was looking for examples of work “in the engineering and building of simulators that mimic multiple network enclaves and are interconnected to simulate the [Web] (to include 1,000s of simulated websites) and the [Global Information Grid] environment,” which is the United States’ warfighting data network.

EADS North America Defense Security and Systems Solutions is currently managing JCOR simulated training exercises for the Air Force Communications Agency, according to the San Antonio-based business unit’s 2009 announcement of a three-year deal. Camber Corp. has since acquired the division. The dollar amount of the agreement was not disclosed.

Separately, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon’s technology incubator, is replicating large-scale network attacks at a national cyber range. President Obama asked Congress for $1.8 million for the program in his 2013 budget request.