Northrop Grumman team to build DHS classified network

A team led by Northrop Grumman Corp. has received a $350 million contract to build the Homeland Secure Data Network for transmitting classified information.

The Homeland Security Department in February solicited bids from vendors on the General Services Administration Millennia contract.

The HSDN project will absorb tens of millions of dollars this year, and spending will increase in future years, a senior department official said.

Under the contract, which has three base years and two one-year options, Northrop Grumman's IT sector will replace existing DHS top-secret network services now supplied by the Defense Department's Secure IP Router Network.

The Northrop Grumman team bested Computer Sciences Corp. and Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego.

The Northrop Grumman team includes BearingPoint Inc. of McLean, Va.; CHM Inc. of Virginia Beach, Va.; ITS Services Inc. of Springfield, Va.; Level Three Communications Inc. of Broomfield, Colo.; Lockheed Martin Corp.; Omen Inc. of Annapolis Junction, Md.; Raytheon Co.; SRA International Inc. of Fairfax, Va.; Telos Corp. of Ashburn, Va.; and Touchstone Consulting Group. of Washington.

CIO Steve Cooper said HSDN at first will operate at the top-secret level and later be upgraded to the secure compartmented-information level.

DHS this summer plans to award a similar contract for an unclassified counterpart to HSDN, Cooper said. The unclassified network could link as many as 600 DHS, federal, state and local sites.

The new classified network ultimately will replace five existing WANs. "We are moving to an integrated infrastructure environment that has fewer moving parts," Cooper said. "I think it is a very important step, and we are very excited about it."

HSDN will include gateways to let DHS link its systems to those of other agencies, including offices in the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies. The Coast Guard, because of its military duties, will retain its direct SIPRNet connection to Defense as well as get new HSDN links.

"One of the challenges DHS faces is its communications," said Wood Parker, president of federal enterprise solutions for Northrop Grumman IT. "They have put together many different agencies with different networks. Achieving connectivity is an important first step for them."

Cooper said Andy Newton, who has worked in the Customs and Border Protection bureau, will be the HSDN program director. The HSDN Program Office eventually will grow to include dozens of employees, Cooper said.

Newton's group will be in charge of a network operations control center for HSDN, among other phases of the program.

The new network would let DHS interact with other classified networks while eliminating the department's reliance on external organizations' networks. "Looking to the future, HSDN will be designed to be scalable in order to respond to increasing demands for the secure transmission of classified information among government, industry and academia crucial to defending America from terrorist attacks," a department statement noted.

DHS officials have set broad parameters for HSDN's technical structure, but "we are not making a lot of noise" about technical details and would work closely with Northrop Grumman to define the technology, Cooper said.

Wilson P. Dizard III writes for Government Computer News magazine.

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