By Elizabeth Szoke
DCMA Public Affairs
FORT LEE, Va. — Defense Contract Management Agency leaders were tasked to establish a training center to help the defense industrial base adopt a more proactive approach to their cybersecurity networks.
The team, which faced an expedited timeline, relied heavily on volunteers and the leadership of Darren King, who has recently left the agency.
His professional experience opened the doors to more opportunities and King joined the DCMA team in 2016 where he became the director for the agency’s cybersecurity department, which put him in a position to advise and lead the development of DIBCAC.
“We needed somebody like Darren to help us stand up DIBCAC,” said John Ellis, the agency’s software division director. “With his expertise and the team of volunteers’ hard work, DIBCAC sprung into life in approximately 90 days, no exaggeration.”
Since its inception, DIBCAC created a training baseline that King and others on his team has used to train other services and agencies.
“The team also assisted in getting the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program off the ground, all while assessing the highest priority DIB companies,” Ellis said.
The team initially consisted of volunteers and assignments that formed in early 2019. DIBCAC now has over 50 approved slots with a goal to have almost 300 to ensure it remains the “center of excellence,” which is DIBCAC’s slogan.
“We’ve trained over 600 people on the requirements written by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is different from the DoD’s cybersecurity requirements,” King said.
Prior to King’s ascension to the cyber throne, he served much of his active duty career as a Kiowa helicopter pilot in the Army. One of his duty stations included a tour to Korea where he served as an expert in geographical borders.
“There’s basically a barrier you’re not supposed to cross between North and South Korea,” King said. “I had the borders memorized and I used to take people to see the geographical features to train them not to cross certain zones.”
After King’s time in Korea, he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division and transitioned to pilot a Kiowa Warrior helicopter, which was equipped for battle, unlike the Kiowa he flew in Korea. After three years with the 82nd, King was assigned to become a flight instructor at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
“I taught new aviators basic and advanced combat skills, plus how to fly with night vision goggles,” King said. “I probably almost got killed several times trying to teach new pilots how to fly and it was right around then my first daughter was born. I thought to myself: there was no way I was going to stay in that job because I wanted to see her graduate high school, get married and everything else.”
King decided to transition into the Army Reserves as an information operation cyber analyst.
“I also got accepted into Purdue University where I got a full fellowship and received my master’s in computer science,” said King. “I got my first job with Northrop Grumman and worked there for about five years.”
During his time there, he oversaw reverse engineering, forensics and cyber incident practices. He then joined the Department of Defense again and was hired as the director of cybersecurity for the Information Technology Agency.
“I had about 40,000 customers over 80 different locations over several states,” King said.
As he prepares to leave the agency, King said DCMA has been a positive experience in his career. The agency has also benefited from having King within its ranks and his legacy will remain with the creation of DIBCAC.
Ellis prepares to take on the role of interim DIBCAC director and says he looks forward to the role the department will have in the future of the DoD.
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