There’s no question that 2020 is going to be a big year for technology transformation in the Defense Department. The National Defense Authorization Act gives DoD a $738 billion budget – a $20 billion increase over last year – with an emphasis on fielding the technology necessary for a faster, more agile force, while improving operations and efficiency across the enterprise. That means having fast, low-latency cellular and Wi-Fi connections at every access point and refreshing its legacy infrastructure.
The Secure 5G and Beyond Act, the Promoting United States Wireless Leadership Act and the Prague Proposals have topped the headlines in recent months. All three are focused on security.
The much-hyped 5G has begun to arrive, but in the United States, the truly transformative elements of these next-generation cellular networks are probably still four or five years off. Although improvements such as 100-times-faster speeds will enable more life-and-death type services, including remote surgery or self-driving cars, they also employ a more compromised hardware supply chain and offer a larger attack surface than current networks, federal officials warn.
“The anxiety from governments and regulators about the security issues [arising from 5G] and possible nation-state interference is at a fever pitch right now,” Robert Mayer, senior vice president for cybersecurity, USTelecom, says.
AT&T Mobility National Accounts LLC, doing business as AT&T Mobility, Hanover, Maryland (N00244-18-D-0001); T-Mobile, Bellevue, Washington (N00244-18-D-0002); and Cellco Partnership, doing business as Verizon Wireless, Basking Ridge, New Jersey (N00244-18-D-0003), are being awarded an estimated $198,700,000 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, firm-fixed-price contract for wireless services and devices in support of the Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, other Department of Defense agencies, and federal agencies.
Secure Wi-Fi for classified operations is now available to the U.S. military, thanks to recent policy, hardware and software improvements.
This is of great importance, especially to the Army, which faces challenges with command-post networks. Given size, weight and power constraints, these networks lack mobility, explained Paul Mehney, director of public communications for the Army's Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T). The Army needs more rapid network initialization and faster command-post setup and teardown.
As if cyber breaches of key federal networks haven’t been problematic enough for experts, hackers increasingly target smaller branch offices that present a weak link in cybersecurity. Wireless connectivity at remote locations leave networks vulnerable because they are not hardened with the latest firewall protections and traditionally do not have a lot of tech support, one expert says.
“Small branch offices are becoming a greater point of attack,” says Paul Christman, executive director of federal sales for Dell Software. “We don’t need to storm the castle anymore to gain access to valuable information or access into the networks.”
New Cingular Wireless Services Incorporated, doing business as AT&T Mobility, Hanover, Maryland; Sprint Communications Company Limited Partnership, doing business as Sprint, Reston, Virginia; and Cellco Partnership, doing business as Verizon Wireless, Basking Ridge, New Jersey, are each being awarded an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, multiple award contract for domestic and international wireless services, as well as data plans and devices. The maximum dollar value for the program, including one 12-month base period and four 12-month option periods for all three contracts combined, is $750 million. Funding will be provided at the task order level.
AT&T Wireless Services, Hanover, Maryland, Sprint-Nextel, Lone Tree, Colorado, and Verizon Wireless, Laurel, Maryland, are each being awarded a contract extension to provide nationwide wireless cellular phone service to the Navy. For AT&T, the estimated amount of the extension for each company is $10 million. The Fleet and Industrial Supply Center, San Diego, California, is the contracting activity.