DHS awards $350m for secret net

'We are moving to an integrated infrastructure environment that has fewer moving parts.'

'Steve Cooper, Homeland Security CIO

Henrik G. de Gyor

The Homeland Security Department will get a new network to transmit secret data and consolidate five classified systems.

DHS has awarded a $350 million contract to Northrop Grumman Corp. to build the Homeland Secure Data Network.

'We are moving to an integrated infrastructure environment that has fewer moving parts,' CIO Steve Cooper said. 'I think it is a very important step, and we are very excited about it.'

The department in February solicited bids from vendors on the General Services Administration Millennia contract. The HSDN project will cost tens of millions of dollars this year, and spending will increase in future years, a senior department official said.

The details

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

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 federal, state and local sites.

The new classified network ultimately will replace five existing WANs. HSDN will include gateways to let DHS link its systems to those of other agencies, in-cluding 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.'

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 who will be in charge of a network operations control center for HSDN, Cooper said.

The new network would give DHS interfaces with other classified networks while eliminating the department's reliance on external organizations' networks. The network will be scalable to respond to increasing demands for the secure transmission of classified information, according to a department statement.

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

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