The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) is on track to complete work on its Thunderdome Prototype zero trust security project by January 2023, an agency official confirmed on Nov. 7 at a DISA press conference.

Bringing the classified network into the Thunderdome initiative has been a major evolution for the program, said Brian Hermann, the director of DISA’s Cyber Security and Analytics Directorate.

“By extending the project, we made sure that in the initial evaluation period where we’re doing testing and evaluation, that we gave a fair look at the classified networks and not just the unclassified networks,” Hermann said.

Originally, DISA on Jan. 24 of this year awarded a $6.8 million contract to Booz Allen Hamilton for the execution of a Thunderdome Prototype – a zero trust security solution that aligns with President Biden’s 2021 cybersecurity executive order.

Later in the year, on July 22, the agency announced an additional six-month extension to include the agency’s classified network – the Secure Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet).

That move, according to Hermann, was increasingly important as Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine continues to underscore the importance of securing systems like the SIPRNet, which is used globally by the Pentagon and the U.S. military to transmit secret information.

In addition, Hermann explained that the agency has several objective measures in place to determine the project’s success in reaching it completion date and the progress it has made. For example, DISA has noticed that user experience is better because the routing is more simplified and straightforward for users on their networks both on and off premises.

However, the challenge DISA faces now are those cloud-based capabilities that exist in industry that can’t be connected to the agency’s classified networks.

“And so, we had to look at whether there were different solutions that would be appropriate for that case, versus the unclassified networks. We know things are going to mature, things are going to change over time, but we had to do that initial evaluation in this period,” Hermann said.

With all that said, he feels certain that the agency is on track for its January 2023 completion date.

Yet despite the challenges, Lt. Gen. Robert Skinner, DISA director and commander of the Joint Force Headquarters at the Department of Defense Information Network, voiced a bit more optimism about the expected completion data. He said he believes the agency is further ahead and could complete its Thunderdome Prototype zero trust security project by December 2022.

Read More About
More Topics
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.