CISA, DIU partner on acquiring commercial technologies

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Two agencies critical to federal cybersecurity activities agreed to collaborate on the rollout of emerging commercial technologies in a memorandum of understanding announced Thursday.

The Defense Innovation Unit and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency will share information, jointly develop solutions and work with the private sector across 22 areas identified in October.

DIU has traditionally served defense agencies and CISA civilian ones, so the memo represents the beginnings of a whole-of-government approach to acquisitions benefitting national security.

“Commercial technologies have grown tremendously with the need for cybersecurity, and the significant majority of investment to create these technologies is in the commercial sector,” said Jeff Kleck, cyber director at DIU, and Sabra Horne, innovation lead at CISA, in a joint response. “The nation’s ability to access commercial innovations quickly and efficiently is critical in keeping abreast of the best industry has to offer.”

The agreement took nearly three months to complete and predates the SolarWinds hack, which has CISA and the Department of Defense working more closely to mitigate damage.

Both agencies plan to share information on the innovative use of procurement methods like other transaction authority (OTA) agreements — a key element of the partnership.

The 22 areas of mutual interest are:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Zero trust
  • Active defense
  • Insider threats
  • Software supply chain risk management
  • Analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence
  • Deep learning capabilities
  • Edge computing
  • ML- or AI-driven analytics for structured and unstructured text, images, full-motion video, or other collected data from CISA systems
  • Robotic process automation
  • Communications technologies
  • Space-based communication systems
  • Mesh networks
  • Operator portable communications systems
  • Software, encryption or other systems
  • Information technology hardware and software capabilities like databases or software-defined networking
  • Data and sensors
  • Network sensors
  • Data management
  • Commercially available or proprietary datasets
  • Power and energy
  • Other new, emerging or disruptive tech relevant to CISA

CISA isn’t the only agency DIU is coordinating with to scale commercial technology and streamline processes.

DIU and other tech-focused, rapid-acquisition hubs also announced they would increase their data sharing on companies that approach them to be able to transition between innovation offices. Afwerx, the Navy’s Tech Bridge and the Army’s Futures Command would be part of the partnership.

“No ideas are going to be lost on the cutting room floor,” said Will Roper, assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, at the AFWERX Accelerator summit on Dec. 11.

While they often work with different types of companies and different maturity levels, DIU Director Mike Brown said on a call they were building “one DOD storefront.”

“I am particularly enthused about this aspect of our partnership,” Brown said

Jackson Barnett contributed to this report.

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Cybersecurity, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), Innovation, Jeff Kleck, Sabra Horne
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