By Sharon Weinberger
May 01, 2008
The Defense Advance Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, was created 50
years ago, in response to the Soviets' launch of Sputnik. In less than a
year, Darpa put together the infrastructure that guided the American
space effort for decades to come. Now, Darpa has been given new marching
orders: to help America fight and win battles online.
Under a directive signed by the President -- and OK'd by Congress --
nearly every arm of the government's security apparatus is starting work
on a massive national cybersecurity initiative, designed to protect the
United States from electronic attack (and strike at adversaries online,
as well). Darpa's role: Create a cyberwarfare range where all these new
forms of electronic combat can be tried out. According to a defense
official familiar with the program: "Congress has given DARPA a direct
order; that's only happened once before -- with the Sputnik program in
Danger Room's sister blog, Threat Level, has a good writeup of the
cybersecurity initiative, which has been labeled as a Manhattan
Project-type effort (a similar label was used for the Pentagon's work
against IEDs, though it's not clear the parallel is as real as some
might hope). In the case of cybersecurity, there is at least talk of big
money: about $30 billion, Danger Room is told.
For its part, Darpa's "National Cyber Range" would create a virtual
environment where the Defense Department can mock real warfare, both
defense and offense.
Darpa today issued an announcement, describing how the range would be a
test where the government could:
. Conduct unbiased, quantitative and qualitative assessment of
information assurance and survivability tools in a representative
. Replicate complex, large-scale, heterogeneous networks and users
in current and future Department of Defense (DoD) weapon systems
. Enable multiple, independent, simultaneous experiments on the same
. Enable realistic testing of Internet/Global-Information-Grid (GIG)
. Develop and deploy revolutionary cyber testing capabilities.
. Enable the use of the scientific method for rigorous cyber
This is clearly a serious deal for the agency: Darpa Director Tony
Tether is a scheduled speaker at the proposers' day workshop scheduled
for mid-May, and apparently plans to help handpick the contractors
(Tether is known for his close involvement in Darpa contracts, but this
level of detail is apparently somewhat unusual, we're told).
It also looks like many of the details surrounding this program will be
-- Sharon Weinberger and Noah Shachtman
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