DISA Awards Two Contracts to Build a Moat Around the Pentagon’s Internet

American and German soldiers work in the Tactical Operations Center at 1st German Netherlands Corps Headquarters for Trident Juncture 2018 in Norway in October.

American and German soldiers work in the Tactical Operations Center at 1st German Netherlands Corps Headquarters for Trident Juncture 2018 in Norway in October. Michael O’Brien/Defense Department

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The two selected vendors will prototype cloud-based systems that isolate the department’s internal network from the public internet while still allowing employees to browse the web.

The Pentagon awarded two contracts to prototype a cloud-based system that would quarantine the department’s internal networks from the rest of the internet.

The Defense Information Systems Agency struck deals with a pair of companies—By Light Professional IT Services and Sealing Technologies Inc.—to build systems that would seal off the Pentagon’s tech from public websites while still allowing employees to browse the internet.

By Light announced the deal on Thursday, and DISA confirmed Sealing Technologies as the second winner in an email to Nextgov. The agency awarded the contracts using other transaction authority, an acquisition vehicle meant to speed up government tech procurements.

The By Light contract is valued at roughly $2.2 million and the award to Sealing Technologies is worth about $1.7 million, according to DISA spokeswoman Christine Mahoney. Both projects have a seven-month period of performance, she said.

Given the size and scope of its activities, the Pentagon is a prime target for hackers and other online bad actors. The department fends off tens of millions of web-based attacks every day, and devotes significant resources to bolstering its internal network, the DODIN, against intruders on the public internet.

By essentially building a moat around the department’s IT infrastructure, the new tech would shut many of the digital doorways attackers use to infiltrate the department’s networks. Defense employees would still have internet access, but instead of using the DODIN, all internal web browsing would be redirected to remote servers at federal data facilities.

“The … capability, which has been used in the commercial sector to isolate internet traffic, will mitigate the threats and free up the bandwidth capacity,” officials wrote in the solicitation. “However, it has never been implemented at scale in any [Defense Department] entity or component.”

Initial prototypes will only be required to handle 100,000 users at any one time, and vendors would use feedback from the first iteration to scale the system to the entire enterprise.

“This Internet isolation solution is innovative and should greatly benefit the [Defense Department] by virtually eliminating internet browsing threats traversing the internet access points while also helping to reduce bandwidth utilization,” By Light Vice President Joe Boyd said in a statement. By Light is bringing on the Palo Alto-based cloud security firm Menlo Security as a supporting contractor.