DOD Awards Contract to Verizon Public Sector for Research Network

Verizon Public Sector has won a $495 million contract with the U.S. Department of Defense to supply the network connecting 200 research labs and supercomputer locations, the company announced.

More specifically, Verizon will provide the department with switches, routers, firewalls and “edge compute” capabilities. The Defense Research Engineering Network contract, awarded to Verizon by the Defense Information Systems Agency, has a four-year base and three two-year option periods.

“Our managed services solutions will create a next-generation user experience for research teams utilizing the DREN platform while also enhancing security across the network,” said Jennifer Chronis, senior vice president for public sector at Verizon.


Background: What is this contract for?

The Defense Research Engineering Contract (DREN) is part of the department’s High Performance Computing Modernization program (HPCMP), which dates back to 1992. Verizon won the fourth iteration of the contract, DREN 4, but the company also previously held the second version of the contract, which ran from 2002 to 2012. 

HPCMP provides the department with supercomputing capabilities so that scientists and engineers can collaborate and tackle problems ranging from climate change to COVID-19.

When the COVID-19 cases surged in April 2020, HPCMP used its supercomputing resources to aid federal response to the pandemic. In a joint effort with the U.S. Transportation Command, HPCMP supercomputers were used to determine how to airlift passengers with COVID-19 to treatment. 

In addition to research on airlift possibilities, HPCMP worked with U.S. Army Medical Command and the Walter Reed Army Research Institute to develop ways of conducting virtual drug screenings of potential COVID-19 vaccines.


Analysis: What can Verizon bring?

Verizon’s contract, DREN 4, marks a “significant shift” from the previous iterations of the contract “with most of the intelligence of the network moving from the network edge to the network core,” as reported by Nextgov.


Verizon will move the DREN project away from a hardware-defined structure to install programmable network services. 

In a brief shared with Nextgov, Verizon states it will use “generic hardware to support distributed switching, routing, compute, and firewall functions to decrease non-recurring costs for the program.”

“This inverts the value ratio for hardware versus software components, consequently lowering barriers to competition from innovative software companies,” the brief continues. 

Verizon’s network promises greater automation and shorter innovation cycles, allowing for continuous improvements to be made for the program.