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NIST Announces Plan to Sponsor First Cybersecurity FFRDC

NCCOE door

The National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence in Maryland.

Credit: Kauffman/NIST

To help the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) address industry's needs most efficiently, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today announced its intention to sponsor its first Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC).

The FFRDC mechanism will allow a nonprofit organization to support the NCCoE, which was established in partnership with the state of Maryland and Montgomery County in February 2012. Today's announcement in the Federal Register* is the first of three required, and will be followed by a solicitation for proposals to manage the FFRDC in the fall of 2013. This will be the first FFRDC solely dedicated to enhancing the security of the nation's information systems.

The NCCoE is a public-private collaboration that helps businesses secure their data and digital infrastructure by bringing together experts from industry, government and academia to find practical solutions for today's most pressing cybersecurity needs. Last week, the center announced formal partnerships with 11 private industries.**

FFRDCs are independent nonprofit organizations that operate in the public interest and provide a highly efficient way to leverage and rapidly assemble physical resources and scientific and engineering talent, both public and private. By design, they have beyond normal access to government and supplier data, and as nonprofits, they have no bias toward any particular company, technology or product—key attributes, given the NCCoE's collaborative nature.

"The FFRDC model is the most effective way the center can work with private companies to accelerate industry's adoption of integrated tools and technologies to protect IT assets," said Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher. "NIST has a long history of successful collaboration with industry, and this approach leverages our top cybersecurity experts while allowing the center to be as nimble as possible."

U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski has been a strong supporter of the NCCoE and participated in last week's signing ceremony for new industry partners, along with Director Gallagher, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, and other state and federal partners. "Reorganizing with an FFRDC will help the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence achieve its mission to protect America's ideas and innovations from cyber terrorists, spies and thieves," she said. "The NCCoE unites the knowledge of the government with the know-how of the private sector to improve our nation's cybersecurity and create jobs. I am so proud to put money in the federal checkbook so this center will ensure Maryland continues to lead the way in cyber technology and cyber jobs."

FFRDCs can have a number of structures that reflect various balances of contractor/government control and ownership. In the case of the NCCoE, federal staff will provide overall management of the center, and the FFRDC will provide various types of support to its mission, including research, development, engineering and technical support to devise, test, and demonstrate integrated technical solutions to difficult cybersecurity challenges; program and project management of FFRDC collaborative efforts; and management and operations of the NCCoE facility.

Comments on the proposed FFRDC are due by 5 p.m. Easter time on July 22, 2013, and must be submitted to Keith Bubar, at keith.bubar [at] (keith[dot]bubar[at]nist[dot]gov) or National Institute of Standards and Technology, 100 Bureau Drive, Mailstop 1640, Gaithersburg, MD 20899. For more information on FFRDCs, see the Federal Acquisition Regulation. (link removed as it no longer works.)

** See the April 15, 2013, NIST news announcement, "Industry Partners Join the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence."
Released April 22, 2013, Updated January 24, 2023