U.S., Australia Partnering on Virtual Cyber Training Range

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U.S. Cyber Command said the Cyber Training Capabilities Project Arrangement is the first-ever agreement to develop the Army’s Persistent Cyber Training Environment together.

The U.S. and Australia signed an agreement in November valued at more than $215 million over six years to continuously develop a virtual cyber training range, U.S. Cyber Command announced Friday. 

The first-of-its-kind Cyber Training Capabilities Project Arrangement turns on the Persistent Cyber Training Environment, a simulated training platform managed by the Army, according to a press release. Under the arrangement, U.S. Cyber Command will incorporate feedback from the Australian Defence Force into PCTE on a continuous basis. 

In the past, allies developed cyber training ranges together only for specific one-off scenarios. The new arrangement and the PCTE technology enables “cyber forces around the world to develop and re-use already-existing content and train at the individual and group levels anytime,” according to the release.  

Elizabeth Wilson, the U.S. signatory to the agreement and deputy assistant secretary of the Army for defense exports and cooperation, said in a statement this marks the first cyber-only arrangement between the U.S. Army and an allied nation. Australia and the U.S. are part of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which also includes Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. 

“To counter known and potential adversarial threats, the Army has recalibrated our strategic thinking; we’ve made smart decisions to refocus our efforts to invest in the new, emerging and smart technologies that will strengthen our ability to fight and win our nation’s wars,” Wilson said in a statement. 

Wilson added the agreement contributes to the efficiency of joint modernization and allows the U.S. and Australia to become stronger, “more interoperable” allies. 

The Army began work on PCTE in 2016, and the first production version of the platform came out in February. The training platform is a major component of the Joint Cyber Warfighting Architecture, which was introduced in 2019. 

In November, the Government Accountability Office released an audit that concluded Cyber Command “has not defined JCWA interoperability goals for constituent systems,” in large part because most of the programs brought together under the architecture—including PCTE—were in development prior to the formation of the JCWA concept. 

The Senate Armed Services Committee in a report accompanying the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act directed DOD to develop a governance plan for JCWA to address integration issues by Dec. 1, 2020. U.S. Cyber Command did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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