Air Force takes ownership of DARPA cyber warfare program

A Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program that laid the foundation for planning and execution of cyber operations is now being transitioned to the Air Force.

In a partnership between DOD’s Strategic Capabilities Office and the Air Force Research Lab, DARPA’s plan X program will be rebranded as project IKE — which now aims to scale and operationalize the capabilities developed during five years of work with the research agency.

IKE will leverage artificial intelligence to recommend courses of action for defensive cyber operations, according to Chris Greamo, president of Two Six Labs, which won a $95 million contract for the project. Formerly named Invincea Labs, the company was one of the contractors that worked with DARPA on plan X.

The original program sought to address the problems faced by cyber operators who couldn’t use existing planning tools intended for kinetic operations.

“We can’t leverage the models that we used previously because cyber is so fast-moving, fast-changing,” Jeff Karrels, Vice President of Two Six Labs’ Cyber and Electronic Systems group, explained in an interview with Inside Defense.

Plan X created the first common operating picture for warfighters in cyberspace, with a particular focus on workflow, according to DOD’s website. For users who lacked technical expertise, the program’s engineers turned new tools into apps that performed effects and would be used to plan courses of action.

Now, IKE has a “new focus on increasing the precision, time, and scalability of the cyber operator workflows,” Greamo said.

It will make recommendations as airmen draw up a response to a possible cyberattack. Greamo described some of the questions operators ask in their planning process.


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