December 11, 2017

What to watch at the Defense Department in 2018

By Stephanie Meloni and Mark Wisinger
Senior analyst and consultant
immixGroup

The Department of Defense (DOD) and the military branches have been making progress to make sure DOD can modernize its capabilities across domains and stay ahead of threats. Facing budget shortfalls for the past few years has raised concerns that adversaries will catch up to the United States. Now with the DOD’s requested budget increase for the coming years, the agency will be relying on technology to restore readiness shortfalls and maintain the military edge.

Several market segments are going through changes in 2018. Here’s what companies that sell technology to the DOD should have these changes on their radar in 2018:

DOD CIO role

The FY18 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) proposes that the role of the DOD CIO be split into two separate positions. The Chief Information Warfare Officer will be a new position dedicated to cyber defensive and offensive capabilities and operations. The Chief Information Warfare Officer will be involved with directing cybersecurity policy and procurement across the department. Cybersecurity vendors, including any vendors with offensive cyber tools, will want to pay close attention to the new Chief Information Warfare Officer in FY18.

Commercial online marketplaces

Included in the NDAA is a provision that would create online marketplaces for the department to buy everything from pens and paper to complex IT solutions. It would take on a phased approach in which the federal government issues multiple contracts to multiple e-commerce portal providers in the coming years. A single e-commerce portal for the Defense Department could generate more than $5 billion in annual revenue for the provider with little vetting of products or oversight of delivery.

CYBERCOM’s elevation to full command status

Expect CYBERCOM to officially become a Combatant Command by the end of October 2018, which will coincide with it reaching full operating capability. This also speaks to the ever-increasing emphasis on cyber as a warfighting domain, and one of its major focus areas will be automating cyber defense.

Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L) organization split

Changes have been proposed to top-level DOD organizations to ensure the department develops the right capabilities for the future, resulting in a decision to split the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L) into two separate organizations. The Undersecretary of Acquisition and Sustainment will be focused on maintaining current capability and will oversee the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Defense Logistics Agency. The Undersecretary of Research and Engineering will focus on developing new capabilities and will oversee the Missile Defense Agency, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Defense Innovation Unit Experimental. These changes will begin taking place this February and  take two years to complete.

Emphasis on space and missile defense capabilities

The changes at AT&L also point to missile defense as an area that will receive increased attention and budget. Space is another area that will see an increase in funding. Within these two areas, the DOD is concerned about capabilities our adversaries have developed, so now is the time to develop new solutions. Expect DOD space and missile leaders to be focused on infrastructure configuration for better information sharing, increased cyber protection and resiliency and figuring out how autonomy can make these systems more efficient.

All of these changes are being proposed to ensure that the DOD can outmatch any adversary, in any domain. Technology companies will want to frame products as a solution that can help the DOD push beyond readiness and truly modernize warfighting capability. This won’t always mean a tactical solution—anything that can help them save money and divert resources to core missions will remain key, along with products or solutions that can enable data-driven decisions, improve information sharing or strengthen and protect networks.

Learn more about what you can expect in the coming year by viewing the FY18 Department of Defense Budget Briefing we presented at this year’s Government IT Sales Summit.