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Combatting Cyberthreats with Faster Acquisition

The Cyber Edge
July 14, 2017
By George Holland

The executive order signed by the president in May to strengthen the nation’s cybersecurity policies is evidence that the federal government has recognized and is going to take significant steps to address increasingly frequent and sophisticated cyber attacks. This order is a great first step, but must be supported by more innovative and flexible acquisition and procurement strategies and processes.  

Defense and national security agencies are trying to streamline their hardware and software procurement processes to decrease the time between requirement to deployment, provide more flexible delivery models and shift the focus to emerging and leading-edge solutions and services.   

In embracing several new strategies and architectures, agencies can bolster cybersecurity postures more quickly and be better positioned to predict, prepare for and defeat expanding threat vectors. Hardware and software companies should embrace their roles as mission partners and work closely with the government and prime contractors to provide solutions for a more flexible, rapid and effective acquisition process. 

Solutions include software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) tools to help agencies achieve security objectives while overcoming acquisition barriers. Cloud-based, software-as-a-service solutions are easier and more cost effective than traditional software point platform acquisitions and streamline security processes by setting up smaller, more intelligent systems and services. Rapid, predictable and cost effective upgrades and technology refreshes can be built in to the initial procurement to ensure cyber policies and enforcement activities remain solid. Automation, a key benefit of SDN and NFV, saves enormous amounts of time and money while enhancing agility and effectiveness of security solutions and services.

But agencies must also take the initiative.

Buying software and hardware is only half the battle. Success is derived from moving away from “low cost, technically acceptable” acquisition processes to total cost of ownership or service consumption models that favor long-term value over upfront savings. That means a technical shift as much as a cultural one.

The trust and reliability of software is also important. Software should have built-in security components and be compliant with government standards, such as the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, or FedRAMP. Solutions from trusted vendors tend to fit these criteria more than technologies bought through processes that do not have key protections and frameworks.

Regardless of the source, software must be easily deployable, upgradeable and based on open standards. These criteria ensure interoperability, adaptability and agility, and are integral to agencies’ efforts to remain in front of threats without costly hardware refreshes or upgrades.

George Holland is vice president of the defense and national security group at Juniper Networks.

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