Dialogue with Dr. Edmund Mitchell of CSIOS Corporation about Cyber and Intelligence Research and Development in the Department of Defense

CSIOS Corporation or CSIOS (www.csioscorp.com) is a Maryland–based veteran–owned and small–disadvantaged business provider of full–spectrum cyberspace operations and cybersecurity services to U.S. Federal customers worldwide.

It is no secret that transitioning information technology products from the lab to the field is a slow process in the Department of Defense (DOD). The following interview with Dr. Edmund Mitchell, Chief Business Development Officer of CSIOS Corporation discusses how CSIOS Corporation helps DOD organizations facilitate the transition of their Research and Development (R&D) technologies to DOD warfighters.  

What is the role of the Science and Technology (S&T) community in cybersecurity defense? 

The DOD depends heavily on new cybersecurity–based technologies to support, transform, and continue to evolve future military operations in the cyberspace domain.  The DOD’s reliance on its S&T community—experts, research laboratories, test facilities, industry, government, and academia—to continually identify, pursue, and develop new technologies to improve and enhance defensive and offensive cyberspace solutions is unmeasurable.  Simply put, the S&T community is critical to maintain our technological superiority over our adversaries. 

Dr. Mitchell, why did CSIOS become involved with Cyber Research and Development?

As outlined in the DOD Cyber Strategy, accelerating and transitioning cyber capabilities to our cyber defenders is a top priority for the Department. Unfortunately, most great ideas and innovations get lost before they are fully transitioned to DOD warfighters. At CSIOS, we saw the need to work closely and collaboratively with DOD organizations, from conception to completion, to help them identify funding and to transition programs related to their projects which can be pushed throughout the DOD for technical and operational use.       

What is the biggest problem within the Research & Development Process?

Generally speaking, transitioning for operational use is the biggest hurdle.  Technology transition means identifying technologies that have been sufficiently matured in the S&T environment and are ready to transition to a user such as a weapon acquisition program or the warfighter in the field. Transitioning technologies from cybersecurity defense S&T labs and research organizations to military users, however, has been a long–standing challenge for the DOD. 

Could you explain the DOD method uses to mature technologies before transitioning them to DOD warfighters? 

The DOD uses Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) as a method of estimating the maturity of a technology product during its acquisition lifecycle process.  TRLs enable consistent, uniform discussions of technical maturity across different types of technology.  TRLs are determined during Technology Readiness Assessments (TRAs) and are based on a scale from 1 to 9 with 9 being the most mature technology. 

What happens with technologies that do not reach the highest TRLs? 

There is a Technology Valley of Death Program where all technologies that have struggled to become relevant operational assets come to die.  Sometimes a product’s TRLs is not mature enough to transition. At other times promising technologies are not taken advantage of because of insufficient processes and mechanisms to expedite their transition to users. Part of this is due to the lack of coordination between the intended end–user and the developers.  While many programs have good integration and uniformed staff working on integration, many more are concepts and ideas created through the research process that have not been fully introduced to the field as a program of record – many times these are not hardware items but are add on firmware and software that can be used to smooth out or enhance a process and make a support system faster, more reliable, or more maneuverable for the warfighter.

How does CSIOS help DOD organizations with technology transition?

In essence, we help organizations identify, qualify, and keep track of DOD R&D funding opportunities as they apply to their cyber and intelligence missions and operational priorities.  For example, within the DOD, there are close to 20+ different R&D funding programs, managed by OSD and the military departments.  These are technology transition programs that provide controlled mechanisms and funding to facilitate the Department’s R&D needs. These programs are all different – they vary in size, mission, approach, funding, technology maturity, and expectations.  Each program has a unique nomination and selection criteria, and they are all reviewed differently by military and government panels of separate and varied backgrounds.  While these programs are different and unique, they all provide a great opportunity to help transition relevant technologies from the Science and Technology community to our cyber defenders in the field. At CSIOS, we help DOD organizations identify, sync up with and navigate these programs from beginning to end.