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NEWS | June 11, 2021

Cyber Warfare Engineering Lab Opens a World of Creativity While Protecting the Warfighter

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications

Behind the windowless exterior walls of the Cyber Warfare Engineering Lab (CWEL) at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD), there is a world of possibility and creativity. Think of a “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”-type of world. Instead of being surrounded by candy and chocolate, users of the CWEL are introduced to a world unconstrained by the laws of physics, including a Virtual Test Environment (VTE) through the digital proving grounds.

In name, those that work in the 10,000-square-foot building are engineers and scientists with cybersecurity, software or other similar areas of expertise. In reality, each employee based in the CWEL building and its associated projects is a master of out-of-the-box, creative thinking, according to Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Red Team (SEA-RT) Deputy Director John Jims. CWEL acts as a home base for both USS SECURE and SEA-RT. Both programs focus on creating cyber resilient products for the warfighter.

The 25-person NAVSEA Red Team is based at both NSWCDD and NSWCDD Dam Neck Activity. The team specializes in an adversarial emulation approach to cyber resiliency in both local and remote operations, diving into specific programs and projects within the Department of Defense’s (DoD) portfolio. The team’s customers range from internal NAVSEA and Navy customers and other program executive offices to external customers like the Missile Defense Agency, DoD (like Navy, Army or Air Force missions) and the Defense Information Systems Agency.

Both the SEA-RT and USS SECURE programs share a common goal: identify vulnerabilities within the cybersecurity realm and report them to the system owners to protect the warfighter. In the weeks since employees started working in the building together, leaders have already seen an uptick in collaboration.

The CWEL building itself is split into two sections: a secret security area and a top secret security area. The two spaces are also divided into USS SECURE and SEA-RT project areas. One of the zones that USS SECURE operates in is the VTE lab, a multi-platform testing environment that allows troubleshooting of specific programs to take place, creating a cost effective way to test products. USS SECURE Program Director Jay Blalock pointed out that it is a lot easier to test things in-house before sending them out on ships – and the VTE lab is a prime location for that.

While NAVSEA Red Team and USS SECURE are up and running in the building, CWEL is not expected to be fully operational until late July. Rates to use CWEL for external partners are still pending approval, but regardless one thing is certain: this one-of-a-kind capability is only the beginning for NSWCDD.