On Oct. 25, the Defense Digital Service (DDS) announced the expansion of an initiative to cultivate and engage technical talent in the Army by bringing together skilled cyber soldiers and top civilian technologists to rapidly build cyber capabilities. The program expansion is marked by the opening of ‘Tatooine’- a new DDS workspace launching in downtown Augusta, Georgia. The workspace is designed to house tech teams, cultivate talent, and promote innovative ways to solve mission challenges.
“Technology has become the new domain for warfare. It has never been more important for the U.S. military to rapidly evolve technical capabilities to outpace adversarial threats,” said DDS Director Chris Lynch. “Recruiting, supporting, and retaining technical talent in the military can present unique challenges from training, to compensation, to ensuring opportunities for growth and engagement in a quickly evolving field.”
DDS is a team at the Department of Defense (DoD) charged with transforming the way the DoD approaches technology by bringing in private sector tech talent and best practices. The DDS team includes top technologists, engineers, designers, and other experts with private sector expertise on one-to-two-year tours of duty at the Pentagon. DDS is an agency team of the United States Digital Service.
“To help the Army resolve its toughest talent management and technical challenges, DDS and U.S. Army Cyber Command (ARCYBER) have partnered to bring technically-gifted Soldiers together with private sector civilian talent to rapidly develop immediate-need cyber capabilities,” said Lt. Gen. Fogarty. “This innovative partnership will solve tough problems and serve as a powerful retention and recruitment tool.”
“Tatooine will be a beacon for technical talent across the military-a place to write code and solve problems of impact,” said Lynch. “Through this partnership, we are setting our best technical warfighters against our toughest problems with support and training from our DDS software engineers and experts. Together, men and women in uniform and tech nerds are finding new ways to rapidly solve high-impact challenges.”
Tech Talent Program
Last year, DDS launched a pilot program to help cultivate, support and best utilize technical talent within ARCYBER. The program deploys tech teams of DDS tech experts and cyber soldiers to rapidly produce cyber capabilities. These highly-trained Army officers and soldiers work side-by-side with DDS civilians in unclassified, collaborative, startup-like spaces using technology and tools found in the private sector. For instance, project teams are using concepts of continuous software iteration and user-centered design, which are common in the tech sector, but not in the military.
After a series of successful pilot projects, DDS in scaling up efforts to bring its entrepreneurial culture and technical expertise to the Fort Gordon and Augusta, Georgia area, the Army’s center of gravity for cyber operations and training. Through the expanded program, the Army is working to increase opportunities for soldiers to participate in pilot programs directly related to mission priorities and receive specialized on-the-job technical training.
-- Building drone detection technologies: The first pilot program developed, produced, and rapidly deployed a capability that combats commercial drones used by adversaries. The team developed a low-cost software system that is flexible enough to adapt to newly identified targets and easy for operators to use and transport in austere conditions.
-- Hunting for adversaries on DoD networks: One team developed a streaming data analytics tool to more effectively detects adversaries on friendly networks. The tool automates the analysis of huge amounts of data to quickly identify and prioritize threats.
-- Redesigning training for cyber soldiers: DDS and the Cyber Center of Excellence (CCOE) launched a training pilot to compress and streamline cyber training courses. Through this program, DDS and the CCOE are working to cut down training time, leverage private sector vendors, and use soldiers to help implement and design the curriculum. The first pilot iteration accelerated the training time for a subset of Army soldiers at Fort Gordon from six months to just 12 weeks.
DDS is currently working with ARCYBER to build and empower additional teams. The creation of the new workspace for the program will allow for more teams to be created without the need to relocate soldiers to the DDS headquarters in Washington, D.C. Additionally, operational requirements can better flow from the customer at nearby Fort Gordon. Support by DDS and ARCYBER leadership reaffirms their dedication to address the talent management challenges across the Army.
‘Tatooine’ Augusta Workspace
The unique, startup-like workspace is housed in the Georgia Cyber Center, a state-owned facility designed to promote modernization in cybersecurity technology among government, industry, and educational institutions. Located in Augusta near Fort Gordon, home of the CCOE, this workplace provides an environment with the tools, technology, and DDS mentorship that enables top technical talent from within the ranks to hone their skills and contribute to mission.
ARCYBER and the CCOE are supporting the program by providing the technical soldiers to staff teams, as well as constructive credit towards Professional Military Education (PME) for time technical soldiers spend on the teams. The CCOE and the Army Cyber Institute have provided senior officers to oversee day-to-day operations in Tatooine and report to DDS.
The Tatooine space will provide space for pilot teams to develop cyber capabilities, as well as continue to support additional technical partnership programs including the ‘Hack the Army’ bug bounty programs to strengthen Army digital assets, a Civilian Hiring as a Service Pilot to streamline the hiring process for technical talent and better leverage hiring authorities and incentives, software modernization projects, and more.
DDS is launching the new space today with an open house, speaker series, and day-long hackathon event for cyber soldiers and the local tech community. In honor of the opening, the State of Georgia today issued a proclamation recognizing October 25, 2018 as “Defense Digital Service Day.”