The Navy appears to be ramping up its cyber war capabilities with a contract award that includes support for offensive cyber technology that could “destroy” enemy computer networks and perform cyber espionage.
The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command’s $98 million dollar contract, announced this week, was awarded to 14 small companies for “Integrated Cyber Operations support.”
Although the contract comes just a month after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s declaration of an aggressive cyber doctrine, that appears to be coincidence: The solicitation for the Navy SPAWAR’s cyber effort was first issued in October 2011.
According to that original contract solicitation, the integrated cyber operations include “computer network defense, computer network exploitation, and computer network attack.” The solicitation defines network attacks as: “Actions taken through the use of computer networks to disrupt, deny, degrade or destroy information resident in computers/computer networks or the computers and networks themselves.”
As a practical matter, it’s unclear how the technology would be fielded. It’s still not clear what law governs the use of cyber attacks, though the State Department’s top lawyer has said that a cyber attack in certain cases could be considered a “use of force” and would be subject to international humanitarian law and the laws of armed conflict.
The 14 companies won the contract as part of a multiple-award contract and will compete for task orders. SPAWAR spokesman Jack O’Neill says this type of contract, favored by Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, “is supposed to breed better efficiencies, and better prices.”
The companies awarded the contract are Anchored Systems (JV), Washington, D.C.; Ausgar Technologies, San Diego, Calif.; Burke Consortium Inc., Alexandria, Va.; The Cybrix Group, Tampa, Fla.; Flatter and Associates Inc., Stafford, Va.; GRSI, Frederick, Md.; ISHPI Information Technologies Inc., Mount Pleasant, S.C.; Mandex Inc. Fairfax, Va.; Mystikal Solutions LLC, San Antonio, Texas; Sentar Inc., Huntsville, Ala.; SPARC LLC, Charleston, S.C.; Stargates Inc., Arlington, Va.; Strohmier Consulting LLC, Ashburn, Va.; and Technical and Project Engineering, Kingstowne, Va.