The cyber industrial complex is growing.
The need to boost the Pentagon’s cyberwar-fighting abilities is “so dire,” Lt. Gen. Kevin McLaughlin, deputy commander of dedicated cyberwar unit CYBERCOM, argued this month, that Department of Defense has already paid over $318 million in cybersecurity contracts to private defense firms in 2015 alone.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is now visiting Washington to discuss the sustained cyber conflict between the U.S. and China. The American government and its military has been increasingly focused on building up their own capabilities to compete with what has been described as China’s 100,000 “code warriors.”
The U.S. military’s own recruitment drive for cyberwarriors is not a part of the tally here, which includes only money paid to private firms published publicly by the Pentagon. In fact, the $318 million number is only a baseline, as the Defense Department’s records only show individual contracts awarded over $6.5 million.
The biggest cyber contract of the year by far was the $133.2 million paid to Identity Theft Guard Solutions in the wake of the massive data breach at the Office of Personnel Management, which affected an estimated 21.5 million people. The money pays for services like identity theft insurance, identity restoration, and identity monitoring.
Extending over three years, the contract could rise to $329.8 million. But it’s been criticized by security experts for missing crucial protection, like credit freezes, despite the giant price tag.
Industry giant Northrop Grumman’s Information and Technology division got the contract to provide cybersecurity for the Marine Corps Enterprise Network, a task that earned the firm $7.1 million this year, in addition to contracts from previous years.
The Pentagon paid unfortunately named firm Isis Defense $7 million for a threat intelligence and cyber analytics platform, which will work with the military’s cutting edge big data research “with novel approaches to high-performance computing and data storage hardware” from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is tasked with the U.S. government’s foremost research and development.
Multiple contracts in the $7 million range were paid out this year for research and development of transparent computing, which has the goal of making the inner workings of computers easily visible.
The most recent contract is a $9.5 million payment to Sierra Nevada Corp. to build the software and hardware for new systems the optimize information sharing within the intelligence community while maintaining cybersecurity throughout.
Illustration by Max Fleishman