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C3I&N level-ups network defense

LevelUP Cyber Works is a “cyber factory” that will develop and field new capabilities. Unified Platform is a cyberspace operations system for those future cyber mission force capabilities. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Benjamin Newell)

LevelUP Cyber Works is a “cyber factory” that will develop and field new capabilities. Unified Platform is a cyberspace operations system for those future cyber mission force capabilities. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Benjamin Newell)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – A cyber operations system called Unified Platform fielded its first capabilities in late April, allowing services to spot suspicious data events that can indicate potential attacks on Department of Defense networks.

The LevelUP program office within the Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks Directorate at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, executed a government-led effort to share network traffic information between Army, Marine and U.S. Cyber Command platforms. C3I&N officials said fielding the capability in April is the first step toward more robust offensive and defensive cyber capabilities.

“We’re giving cyber protection teams the ability to query network data from across their sister service networks,” said the C3I&N program manager for the LevelUP interoperability effort. “Before this first Unified Platform capability, the services maintained standalone applications, resulting in duplication of effort and, more importantly, reduced cyber threat visibility.”

The program office’s first job was to deliver operational capability by connecting the services’ current cyber systems. This improves network security without duplicating defensive efforts or missing early indicators of a network vulnerability.

LevelUP’s founding strategy document lays out two main products. The first, LevelUP Cyber Works, is a “cyber factory” that will develop and field new capabilities at the speed and scale required in today’s cyberspace operations environment. The cyber factory is implementing a development, security and operations pipeline to test and certify applications for fast introduction to operations.

The second major LevelUP product is Unified Platform, a cyberspace operations system for future cyber mission force capabilities. Unified Platform will allow all three services to pursue more advanced cyberspace operations techniques as a team, using a single platform.

“I’m very proud of the LevelUP Team - first and foremost for delivering operational capability to our joint service cyberspace operators in record time, but also for instituting the culture and innovation of LevelUP Cyber Works focused on rapid warfighter delivery,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Schmidt, program executive officer of C3I&N, headquartered at Hanscom.

The total effort for this first Unified Platform increment took six months, from getting requirements in October 2018 to fielding in April 2019. LevelUP minimized costs and development investments by working with sister services to unify products they had already created.

A C3I&N program manager’s name was withheld for security reasons.