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NEWS | Jan. 17, 2020

NSWC Dahlgren Division Cyber Engineer Wins Copernicus Award

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications

WASHINGTON – A U.S. Navy civilian cyber engineer won the coveted Copernicus Award, the Chief of Naval Operations announced in a message released throughout the fleet, Jan. 14.

Jay Blalock will be formally recognized for his impact on the Navy's cyber security testing capability at an upcoming award ceremony hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute and the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) who selected the Copernicus winners.

“I am extremely humbled, and honored to have been nominated and selected to receive this award,” said Blalock, program manager and cyber test engineer for a distributed cyber test architecture called USS Secure at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD).

The U.S. Naval Institute and AFCEA International recognize individuals each year who are selected for the Copernicus Award based on their sustained superior performance in a command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence or information technology related job.

“This award is the result of the hard work of a large group of people that are dedicated to ensuring the safety of the fleet through cyber testing and hardening,” said Blalock who led cybersecurity systems engineering efforts to architect a safe cyber test environment for the Navy.

The USS Secure program he manages is an operationally representative system-of-systems cyber-security test environment used to identify comprehensive cyber security risks from system level to strike-group level. The multi-enclave environment enables the Navy’s development, evaluation, and testing of cybersecurity concepts and technologies to defend mission critical systems at sea and ashore.

“I am very grateful for the support of my chain of command here at NSWC Dahlgren, the entire USS Secure team, and my wife and kids who make it very easy for me to have the ability to be dedicated to this extremely important and successful program,” said the former Navy fire controlman. At one point in his active duty career, Blalock taught AN/SPY-1 Radar – a key component of the Aegis Combat System – to U.S. and foreign military service students at the Aegis Training and Readiness Center.  

Over the fiscal year 2019, Blalock performed multiple roles to make USS Secure successful. For example, he linked major program manager requirements to USS Secure events aligned with the Navy's priority for cyber testing to field secure systems and platforms faster while reducing cost.

Blalock’s team enabled USS Secure’s alignment with Navy priorities by instantiating systems in a hybrid virtualized and hardware in-the-loop environment to create a representative, high fidelity test architecture capable of supporting the cyber test activities.

“He is making a real difference in the cyber security of our Navy today,” NSWCDD Commanding Officer Capt. Casey Plew stated in his letter nominating Blalock for the award. “His efforts have ensured a sustainable testing solution for the U.S. Navy, prior to systems and platform's deployment, by leveraging investments already made in hardware and connectivity across the Naval Research and Development Establishment.”

In effect, Blalock and his USS Secure crew of cyber experts are making the Naval Sea System Command (NAVSEA) Warfare Centers' vision — turning ships into cybersafe warships — a reality by working to immunize Navy surface, undersea, and air warfare systems against the effects of a cyberattack and to enable rapid recovery in the event systems are impacted.

“As the face of USS Secure, Mr. Blalock provided primary communications across system commands, Office of Naval Operations, Naval Sea Systems Command, program executive office, major programs and sponsors, and the Commander Operational Test and Evaluation Force,” said Plew. “An outstanding communicator, Mr. Blalock routinely and effectively communicates USS Secure topics to a broad array of stakeholders including flag, senior executive service, and technical experts.”

The USS Secure research was conceptualized utilizing Naval Innovation for Science and Engineering (NISE) funds. The NISE program provides the DoD science and engineering organizations the capability to develop and transition technology as well as develop the workforce and enhance laboratory facilities and equipment.

NSWCDD, a NAVSEA warfare center division, is a premier research and development center that serves as a specialty site for weapon system integration. The command's unique ability to rapidly introduce new technology into complex warfighting systems is based on its longstanding competencies in science and technology, research and development, and test and evaluation.