Over four years and three rounds of federal funding, Maryland Commerce, in partnership with Maryland Manufacturing Extension Partnership, supported the growth of more than 135 Maryland small and medium-sized businesses in the defense industry, bolstering the nation’s cybersecurity position.

With cyberattacks and espionage considered among the greatest threats to the resiliency of the nation’s defense supply chain, the Department of Defense sought to secure the handling of Controlled Unclassified Information. In 2017, with support from the National Institute for Standards and Technology, the DoD established a requirement that all contractors handling CUI would be required to comply with a set of cybersecurity standards or risk losing their contracts and related jobs and revenue.

This focus on addressing cybersecurity risks within the defense supply chain was further emphasized in 2020 with the announcement of the Cybersecurity Certification Maturity Model, which requires third-party assessment of compliance with the cybersecurity standards.

Maryland Commerce and Maryland MEP created the Defense Cybersecurity Assistance Program in response to the challenge of navigating the new complexities, as well as the related cost which can be a burden to small and mid-sized defense contractors. Launched in 2018, DCAP was an innovative solution for assisting Maryland small businesses struggling with the challenges of meeting these requirements.

Since the program’s inception, clients have reported an economic impact of more than $2.37 billion — funds that would have been potentially lost if the program did not exist. Utilizing grant funding from the DoD’s Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation, DCAP provided cybersecurity education, risk assessments and technical assistance to mitigate issues identified during the assessment process.

To support these activities, DCAP recruited Maryland cybersecurity experts through collaboration with the Cybersecurity Association of Maryland and ongoing outreach to vetted cybersecurity experts who were willing to provide comprehensive, low-cost solutions to DCAP clients. Since 2018, DCAP has reimbursed small and mid-sized defense contractors more than $1.4 million for cybersecurity assessments and technical assistance; a $1,100:$1 return on investment.

Grant funding for the DCAP program expired in late 2022. However, Maryland MEP continues to support Maryland businesses with compliance with cybersecurity standards as the DoD moves forward with full CMMC implementation.