DOD Formalizes Program Giving Companies More Access to Classified Info

The Pentagon has formally created a group of defense companies that can get broader access to classified initiatives known as special-access programs, hoping that more insight will make contractors more efficient and cost-conscious.

In a Dec. 15 memo to the defense industrial base, Pentagon acquisition boss Ellen M. Lord formalized the SAP Contractor Portfolio Program, which ran as a pilot initiative for several years. The effort will help companies balance the need to understand technology development with the need to protect that information.

“As the world sees a return to great power competition, the Department of Defense must strengthen its engagement with the defense industrial base in order to respond to the national security challenges facing the United States in a more responsive and cost efficient manner,” Lord wrote.

“However, the new phenomenon of rapid technology proliferation has also increased the level of technology protection necessary to maintain the United States’ competitive edge. This increased protection, resulting in many activities being secured in special access programs, challenges the DOD’s ability to share critical information and to collaborate with the DIB to deliver capability to the warfighter,” she said.

The memo did not say how many or which companies are part of the group, but noted corporations must be on contract for at least 15 special-access programs to participate.

Specifically, the program aims to meet four goals:

  • Provide companies with more transparency into the special access programs they work on, so they can integrate other tools and capabilities “with the goal of increasing technology development and cost efficiency”
  • Give the industrial base insight into defense networks that include classified programs so companies can better target their research and development to complement DOD’s systems
  • Give contractors’ security staff the access they need to protect classified information
  • Give corporate officers access to special-access programs they are involved with so they can “fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities.”

Meeting those objectives will “better posture the DIB to support the department and our nation to meet the challenges of this new era,” Lord wrote.