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DISA Defines Industry Needs

Annual Forecast to the Industry from DISA’s top contracting officials sets the tone for innovation and partnership.

Faced with a complex year amid a pandemic, the leader of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) is proud of the way the organization continued to provide crucial communications and network capabilities to warfighters. The agency is thankful for the support from industry in supplying global solutions in such a unique time. However, with a never-ending 24/7/365 mission and adversaries continuing to attack its networks without pause, DISA cannot relent on providing cyber-secure yet scalable tools. And for this, the agency needs the industry’s best efforts, said Vice Adm Nancy Norton, USN, DISA director and commander, Joint Force Headquarters-Department of Defense Information Network (JFHQ-DODIN).

The vice admiral, along with Maj. Gen. Garrett S. Yee, USA, assistant to the DISA Director, and Procurement Services Executive Douglas Packard, presented the agency’s annual Forecast to Industry during the AFCEA TechNet Cyber virtual conference on December 3.

The forecast unveils to the defense industry the planned business opportunities over fiscal years 2021-2022. During the conference, 15 DISA officials supplied specific information on acquisition issues, requirements and planned procurements. The agency will pursue almost 200 contracting procurements during this time.

“As this year has demonstrated, we also have to confront and overcome invisible enemies like the coronavirus as well as fires, hurricanes and tropical storms,” Adm. Norton said. “COVID-19 gave us the opportunity to move even faster on our planned initiatives. We accelerated technology refreshes and you helped us to do that. When the pandemic began, we had to turn on a dime to increase teleconference bridges and phone lines at a scale we had never needed before, and you helped us to do that, through our adopt before we buy, and buy before we create strategy. I would like to thank you all for being so flexible this year and working through this pandemic to provide us with the tools our warfighters need.”

Cybersecurity remains a top priority for the agency, and industry help is needed in cyber-secure solutions that assist in defense of its networks. “[Malicious] actors generate more than a billion cyber events a month on our networks and our attack surface spans the world across every service, combatant command and warfighting domain,” the vice admiral stressed. “And this pandemic has demonstrated the need for building cybersecurity into every product and service you provide from start to finish.”

In addition, DISA will be looking for industry partners to play a critical role in enabling multidomain operations, as the U.S. military works to implement its concept of joint operations across all warfighting domains. She advised industry partners to keep “simplicity, scalability and interoperability in mind” when working with the agency. “When you think about scale, think about a global network that enables American military operations across land, air, sea, space and cyberspace,” Adm. Norton said.

Gen. Yee added that quick responses are sometimes needed from industry in this uncertain era. “One of the ways the military prepared to support civil authorities [at the beginning of the pandemic] was to dock the U.S. Navy hospital ships Mercy and Comfort off the coast of New York City and Los Angeles,” he explained. “When our contracting office was notified of a high urgency requirement to increase the telecommunication service capabilities of both Mercy and Comfort—and at the time Mercy was already in route to Los Angeles—our contract team had less than 48 hours to have circuits operational so that the ships could have maximum bandwidth capability.” 

In record time the contract was written and awarded, and the vendor successfully completed the requirements to provide each ship with a 100 Megabit to 10 Gigabit Ethernet connection to the Defense Information Systems Network, the general stated. “The Navy was able to provide ‘Comfort’ thanks to a job well done by our industry partner,” he said.

Packard, who also is the chief of the Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization at DISA, emphasized that industry needs to offer its best solutions when working with DISA, given what is at stake. “We make certain that we can be the trusted partner for the warfighter because sometimes it is that we have provided them with their connectivity to the world and we take the warfighter very seriously within the telecommunications and information technology services we provide,” he said.

“We face great power competitors who seek to diminish American influence around the world and erode the trust and confidence of our citizens in our government,” Adm. Norton said. “The solutions that we provide to the warfighter have never been more important and that is why our work with you is critical.”

For more information on DISA's contracting opportunities in FY2021-2022, visit the agency's website.