CDM confusion offers sales opportunities

DHS needs to improve how it promotes the Continous Diagnostic and Mitigation contract because much market confusion is holding the vehicle back, says immixGroup's Tom O'Keefe.

The Homeland Security Department needs to improve outreach to other organizations about the cybersecurity contract known as Continous Diagnostics and Mitigation, or CDM.

The word especially needs to reach contracting officials. Without better information from DHS, we’ll continue to see confusion as to the extent that agencies are able to make use of this security vehicle.

Even more importantly for government contractors, industry must help spread the message of CDM. Because many officials across agencies are unfamiliar with CDM and by supporting official DHS efforts, you also gain an excellent segué to discuss your products.

Providing CDM information across agencies should lie with the DHS’ National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), the mission of which is to ensure “a safe, secure, and resilient infrastructure where the American way of life can thrive.” NPPD is tasked with leading the national effort to protect and enhance the resilience of the nation’s physical and cyber infrastructure. To that end, they’re also responsible for getting out the message on CDM, along with the General Service Administration’s FEDSIM group.

Unfortunately, the message is not getting out very well. In my own conversations with officials, I’ve found that many are unfamiliar with the notion of CDM, to say nothing of the strategy for its rollout, and their own ability to purchase off this vehicle.

Let’s take a quick crash course. The overall CDM strategy from DHS is based on a three-phase rollout, prioritizing the most serious problems first, for risk-based and cost effective cybersecurity of the government’s critical infrastructure. Phase 1 focuses on endpoint or device integrity. Phase 2 turns to least privilege management and infrastructure integrity to eliminate unnecessary access. Phase 3 is about boundary protection and event management. The first task order associated with this program came in January 2014.

Even DHS has found it hard to get its hands around all the IT assets under their control as required by Phase 1 of the strategy. In a recent panel discussion dubbed “Federal Cybersecurity Update: Detecting Cyber Intrusions Within,” Tom DeBiase, CISO for DHS’s US Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE), noted that it took some time to prepare requirements.

“We had more technology than we realized,” he said.

Task order 1 was “a way to get our house in order,” in terms of assets, nodes, people and entitlement, DeBiase said. The real benefit of the rollout strategy will come with task order 2, he added.

According to CDM program managers, the focus of task order 2 is going to be on products and services around planning, management, training, and architecture and engineering. This task order will be acquired in six groupings (2A through 2F), the first of which was a DHS-wide buy that happened this past July. The second grouping included the departments of Energy, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, and Veterans Affairs, along with the Executive Office of the President and the Office of Personnel Management. You’ll likely see the RFPs issued in the first quarter of government fiscal year 2015.

 

So what’s the schedule for task order 2?

Responses for task order group 2B were due at the end of October. Mid November was scheduled for technical Q & A sessions with 2A offerors. RFQs for groups 2C and 2D are planned for December. In late January 2015, you can expect a DHS award under group 2A, with responses from groups 2C and 2D due in late February. There’s no timeline yet for groups 2E and 2F – the information gathering process is still underway from those departments and agencies.
 
Because maintenance wasn’t included in the initial buy, the issue of which organization would actually handle maintenance of security technology related to CDM has been the source of some confusion. Subsequently, it was made clear that DHS would issue a separate contract to cover maintenance for CDM-related at a later date. We’re looking at the January time frame for this.

If you’re not on a team with one of the 17 CDM blanket purchase agreement holders, it’s not too late. DHS and GSA are still releasing RFIs looking for new products that will help secure the .gov domain. Technologies including network oversight and assurance, and malware protection, among others, are still in great demand.

 

Whether or not you think you have a play in CDM, it’s worth your while to build up your knowledge about the subject as a context for promoting your own products and services. These days, being frozen out of the CDM conversation can really hurt your ability to sell cybersecurity solutions to government agencies.

NEXT STORY: Will BD go freelance?

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