How partners, competitors collaborate on CDM DEFEND

Primes on DHS' CDM DEFEND program share how they compete and cooperate to bring cyber defenses to their customers.

One moment government IT contractors can find themselves competing against one another and the next day they find themselves as teammates, especially when it comes to the government-wide “CDM DEFEND” cybersecurity effort.

During a Friday breakfast event hosted by Washington Technology, executives from three of the prime contractors on DEFEND peeled the curtain back on how they share knowledge and insights on new cyber tools plus how and at which agency to deploy them.

That panel discussion also shed light on how these systems integrators on the Homeland Security Department’s $3.4 billion CDM DEFEND program see themselves as a bridge for agencies to bring in products or other solutions to shore up their cyber defenses.

Dan Smith, vice president of ManTech International’s federal security solutions division, said one aspect of the integrator’s job is to determine which cyber tools can “span multiple task orders and that we’ve already seen be successful either on other task orders in the past or we’ve seen other primes be successful with.”

For one example he offered how ManTech and fellow prime CGI Federal collaborated on an evaluation of what access and threat management tools were implemented across both of their contracts in order to develop how those offerings would be integrated.

In some cases the primes draw from the same group of subject matter experts and subcontractors to help share lessons learned with other integrators across different areas of the program, said Chris Hedge, a senior associate at Booz Allen Hamilton.

“We’re able to share some of those solutions, what’s worked and what hasn’t worked, particularly around the dashboard and that integration there,” Hedge said. “I think we’ve been able to share those lessons across DHS forums and other external forums we’ve attended.”

Clay Goldwein, vice president and leader of CGI Federal’s DHS business, characterized the role of the prime as also an adviser to DHS and other agencies they are working with to understand priorities and requirements.

“A lot of times the agencies have the set of tools and sometimes we’re helping them to implement additional tools, but the key for them is to get those tools to work together. And if we can help them to make that happen, then they’ll be a lot more successful,” Goldwein said.

How this collaboration between the primes plays out and what their role on the program is are all factors for product providers to consider if and when they are seeking to get their solution deployed for a CDM DEFEND task order, the panelists said.

This particularly holds true given the fact that many agencies already have a wealth of cyber tools already deployed and from the same product providers offering their solution for CDM DEFEND, they added.

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