U.S. government looking for game-changing cyberspace ideas

Published 15 October 2008

With an RFI published yesterday in the Federal Register, the Bush administration has launched its Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI); initiative seeks “the most promising game-changing ideas with the potential to reduce vulnerabilities to cyber exploitations by altering the cybersecurity landscape”

The U.S. government has officially begun to formulate a national research and development agenda for “game-changing ideas” as part of the multiyear, multibillion-dollar, governmentwide effort to secure cyberspace through the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI). The National Science Foundation (NSF) yesterday issued a request for information initiating the National Cyber Leap Year. The Leap Year is meant to seek “the most promising game-changing ideas with the potential to reduce vulnerabilities to cyber exploitations by altering the cybersecurity landscape,” according to the RFI. The project aims to formulate an integrated national approach to making “cyberspace safe for the American way of life.”

Specifically, the two goals of the project are forming a national research and development agenda that identifies the most promising technologies and how to bring them to fruition, and a “jump-start game-changing, multidisciplinary efforts.” The Leap Year will run during fiscal 2009. “These game-changing technologies (or nontechnical mechanisms that are made possible through technology), developed and deployed over the next decade, will fundamentally change the cyber game into one where the good guys have an advantage,” the RFI published in today’s Federal Register states.

FCW’s Ben Bain writes that in January the Bush administration kicked off the multibillion-dollar CNCI by signing a presidential directive. Much of the initiative remains classified, but officials have released more detail regarding the scope and detail of the multiyear effort in recent months.

According to today’s RFI the presidential directive calls for leap-ahead research and technology to reduce vulnerabilities to asymmetric attacks in cyberspace. “Unlike many research agenda that aim for steady progress in the advancement of science, the leap-ahead effort seeks just a few revolutionary ideas with the potential to reshape the landscape,” the RFI states.

Bain says that the first stage of the Leap Year project, which begins with today’s RFI, involves surveying the cybersecurity community for the ideas. The second phase involves a series of workshops to develop the best ideas.
During the second phase the government plans to publish findings on “game-changers” and technical strategy with as many specifics as possible on the types of invention or research needed. The government will also publish findings on how the capability will be implemented, delivered and used, as well as recommendations on funding, authorities and policies.

Contributors to stage one can submit, by 15 December 2008, as many as three leap-ahead concepts. According to the RFI many of the concepts can be classified as ideas that either aim to “morph the gameboard,” “change the rules” or “raise the stakes” to protect against potential cyberattacks.