SAN FRANCISCO — The Defense Department’s day-to-day operations are linked in a vast, international in-house data communications network called the Global Information Grid. Seven million people — uniformed members of the armed forces as well as civilians — rely on it to exchange classified and unclassified information on personnel, vehicles, weapons and surveillance systems. Now, in a coup coming in tight economic times, Lockheed Martin has taken over the multibillion-dollar contract to manage and upgrade the system.
One of the major innovations Lockheed plans to bring to the GIG is heightened cybersecurity, said Angela Heise, the company’s vice president for enterprise information technology solutions. Hackers attempt to penetrate Defense Department computer networks millions of times per day, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Oct. 11 during a speech at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York. Lockheed Martin plans to bolster the GIG’s security with a “cyber kill chain” — a computer security measure aimed at what are called advanced persistent threats. In those attacks a hacker penetrates a network and remains there for months or even years. In order for that type of attack to succeed, hackers must worm their way into high-value networks, remain there undetected and send sensitive data to outside computers. Cyber kill chains seek to stop advanced persistent threats by blocking one or more of the hacker’s steps.
The Defense Information Systems Agency stunned observers in June when it announced that Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Solutions won the GIG Services Management-Operations, or GSM-O, contract, worth as much as $4.6 billion over seven years, to manage the grid. It was a contract held for more than a decade by Science Applications International Corp.. SAIC protested the decision, claiming DISA failed to evaluate properly the risk and cost of Lockheed Martin’s proposal. On Oct. 1, the General Accountability Office upheld the award, clearing the way for Lockheed Martin and its teammates to proceed.
DISA officials declined to discuss the controversy. Heise attributed Lockheed Martin’s success to its plans to “transform” the network and a strong team that includes AT&T Inc., global aerospace giant BAE Systems; Telcordia Technologies Inc., the research and technology company formerly known as Bell Communications Labs; and Serco Inc., the U.S. arm of the British management services firm Serco Group PLC.
It will take Lockheed Martin and its partners six to nine months to take over managing the GIG and begin making improvements, Heise said Oct. 11. One of those innovations is an Amazon-powered storefront designed to help members of the armed forces, policymakers and support personnel find and purchase products and services related to the grid. Lockheed Martin also is seeking to improve database management.
“We have this large-scale global network and we need to be able to identify every element in that network: every router, every switch, every little piece along the lines,” Heise said. “To be able to have a complete database of all that information is very significant not only for good management and operations, but it also helps us look for ways to transform that network.”
On Oct. 2, DISA issued the first one-year task order to Lockheed Martin to take over day-to-day operations of the GIG, said DISA spokesman Steve Doub.
Loren Thompson, defense analyst with the Lexington Institute, said programs like GSM-O are particularly important to government contractors like Lockheed in light of looming federal budget cuts.
“GSM-O supplies essential support services to the military's global grid, and thus is the kind of award that is unlikely to be scaled back in a tight fiscal environment,” Thompson said in an email. “If you were trying to build a stable federal information technology business in unstable times, this is the sort of contract you would want.”