DAHLGREN, Va. – More than a year after the cyber warfare engineering lab (CWEL) at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) broke ground, the center is gearing up to open its doors to several cybersecurity programs.
“I think of CWEL as the cyber center of excellence,” said Mike Strain, CWEL program manager and cyber assurance portfolio business manager. “It’ll be a one-stop shop for cyber requirements – from testing and understanding vulnerabilities to knowing how to negate those vulnerabilities.”
The 10,000-foot lab will act as a centralized location for cyber testing and location with increased security.
“CWEL will allow us the opportunity to streamline the process, so we can understand cyber capabilities and risks and create the mitigation necessary to minimize the risks,” said Strain. “Minimizing the risks ultimately helps the warfighter. It’s a long term vision to take all the parts and put them together to create a central point for the Navy.”
The NSWCDD facility will host both the USS Secure and Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Red Team programs. USS Secure is a cybersecurity program that helps projects and programs meet mission requirements. The NAVSEA Red Team emulates adversarial tactics, techniques, and procedures to identify system and network weaknesses.
“Whenever you start bringing like capabilities together in a single location, you wind up with programs that can operate better,” said Strain. “This single location will allow synergy to rise to the top, so we can take advantage of other things that we may not have thought of before.”
“CWEL’s increased security will allow us to store event data for analysis,” said Jay Blalock, USS Secure program director. “Long term, that analysis can be used to identify mission vulnerabilities.”
According to Blalock, the lab will also include virtual test environments, which will add reliability to testing program and project architectures.
“Cyber will continue to grow more and more as we change the way we operate our systems,” said Strain. “The more we get into the idea of unmanned capabilities, the more important the cyber aspect becomes.”
Originally, the lab was set to open in July 2020. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, the timeline changed. Strain says he expects the lab to be up and running in February or March 2021.