Virtual Institutes for Cyber and Electromagnetic Spectrum Research and Employ (VICEROY)

Program to Establish Cyber Institutes at Institutions of Higher Learning for purposes of accelerating and focusing the development of foundational expertise in critical cyber operational skills for future military and civilian leaders. 


Contract Opportunity

The Griffiss Institute, in partnership with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate, is seeking proposals from prospective or existing consortia of institutions of higher learning, detailing how their constituent members would collaborate in the formation of a new Virtual Institute (VI) that will provide high-impact, experiential learning opportunities capable of imbuing students with the needed skills. The intent of this Special Notice is to solicit input from academia on how best to meet this goal. Proposals are due Sunday, September 19, 2021, by 11:59 PM. Submissions received after the hard deadline will NOT be accepted.

For more information: https://sam.gov/opp/494322f216b44195bd55cc724188c211/view


VICEROY Q&As

Q: Regarding the section on Evaluation Criteria, Number 2.1 states, "If the lead PI is tasked to support the VI at less than 50% of full-time equivalent, the consortium should designate a secondary, technical lead who can fulfill that time commitment." Could you clarify whether the 50% may be split between the lead PI and the technical lead?

A: Yes, the 50% full-time equivalent can be split between the lead PI and the technical lead.

 

Q: The Special Notice states that the response is due by September 19th at 11:59 pm. Since the 19th is a Sunday, will there be an allowance for submission on the next business day, which is September 20, 2021?

A: All proposals are due no later than 11:59 PM on SUNDAY September 19, 2021. Proposals submitted after this date will not be reviewed for the award. Please be sure to submit your proposal as directed in the Special Notice no later than 11:59 PM on Sept 19th.

 

Q: The evaluation criteria in the funding announcement states: "Proposed consortium management structure, to include an empowered lead PI dedicated to guaranteeing the overall success of the consortium. If the lead PI is tasked to support the VI at less than 50% of full-time equivalent, the consortium should designate a secondary, technical lead who can fulfill that time commitment." Does this mean the lead PI must be a 50% FTE employee at the lead organization, or that they must dedicate 50% of their time to management of the VI?

A: The intent of that criterion is to ensure that someone is dedicating a majority of their time to guaranteeing the success of the virtual institute. We are looking for at least one person, not a combination of people, who can dedicate 50%+ of their time to the management of the VI.

The lead PI or the designated secondary, technical lead can be an employee at any member institution.

 

Q: Several of our collaboration partners, including AFRL, are not able to sign the Letter of Collaboration with the GI's mandatory language as they are not allowed to commit government resources in any written form.

  1. Is there any flexibility on the language in the Letter of Collaboration? If not, how do you recommend we proceed?
  2. Have other proposers, now or in the past, expressed a similar problem with the LOC language?

A: 

  1. The language of the special notice is clear that these letters are optional in that “proposers may include” them in the appendix but are free to mention collaborations in the body of the proposal without them.
  2. No, this has not been expressed previously, the language of the letter captures the “intent to … commit the resources …” and should not be construed as a formal commitment of resources in and of itself. Please note that the government often commits resources in writing e.g., via educational partnership agreements.

 

Q: The draft language for letters of support (from Govt and Corporate partners) states that if this Proposal "is selected for funding, it is my intent to collaborate and commit the resources described in the Project Description and Budget Summary sections of the proposal." In this context, what is the definition of 'resources' that might be expected from a supporting organization?

A: Resources in this context can generally be construed to mean access to laboratories, personnel, facilities, equipment, or any other external asset that is necessary to enable the successful execution of the proposal.

 

Q: I am hoping you can provide additional information regarding the below publication restriction clause for the Virtual Institutes for Cyber and Electromagnetic Spectrum Research and Employ (VICEROY) program. Each consortium (includes the lead and all constituent institutions) is advised that limited pre-publication restrictions exist under the GI’s federally funded PIA and therefore, all VICEROY awards will contain the requirement for government review and approval of any/all publications, news releases, advertising, and other materials intended for public release. What exactly does the DOD mean by "limited" pre-publication restrictions?

A: The term "limited" was intended to indicate that full AFRL Public Affairs review and approval is not anticipated for the majority of content intended for publication. However, it is still subject to Government review and approval, which is non-negotiable.

 

Q: The notice indicates that "limited pre-publication restrictions exist under the GI's federally funded PIA and therefore, all VICEROY awards will contain the requirement for government review and and approval of any/all publications, news releases, advertising and other materials intended for public release." Can any additional clarification or context be provided about what constitutes "limited" pre-publication restrictions? Our institution has a policy on academic freedom which generally limits our ability to accept funding when sponsor prior approval terms and conditions are required for scholarly or academic works. Is this term potentially negotiable such that sponsor review and comment (but not approval) would be acceptable?

A: No, there is no flexibility. Any/all information intended for public release is subject to Government review and approval prior to release. This is a requirement of the GI's prime award document.

 

Q:

  1. If SUNY were to lead a proposal with several of our campuses participating, would SUNY collectively be considered one institution for the purposes of counting the number of partner institutions since the solicitation states "it is recommended that proposals limit themselves to no more than five (5) partner institutions" or would we have to count each individual SUNY campus as a separate "partner institution"?
  2. Regardless of the answer to the prior question, is the recommendation to limit to "no more than five (5) partner institutions" a firm recommendation that will be taken into account during reviewers scoring and the final selection of awards or simply just a recommendation?

A: 

  1. We would consider each SUNY location to be a separate entity so one would be the lead and the others would be considered a partner institution.
  2. The recommendation of 5 is due to funding, but you are welcome to submit any number of partner institutions. Please be mindful that the award limit is $1.5 million and scoring may reflect the number of partner organizations and how the funding will be managed with a larger consortium.

 

Q:

  1. Can a co-PI be foreigner (e.g., H1-B visa holder)?
  2. The call says "We respectfully request that individual institutions appear in no more than one consortium proposal." Consider the following possible scenario: Some faculty members at University A joined one consortium, say as Lead or sub-awardee, and other faculty members at University A joined another consortium as sub-awardee. In this case, what will happen? Do you actually mean that one university should only be the Lead of one consortium (if so, the scenario mentioned above would be fine)?

A: 

  1. H1-B visa holders can be a co-PI, but approval is needed if you win an award. Information on the co-PI will be required such as the passport along with a letter from the university stating that the H1-B visa holder will only perform work in the public domain.
  2. We ask that a university be in no more than one consortium. Typically, consortiums are based on a University partner not faculty within a University. Therefore, the scenario above would not be acceptable.

 

Q: Is a Crosstown University eligible for the VICEROY program based on this requirement?: “Any prospective or existing consortium of institutions of higher learning must have at least one Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program among their constituent members to be eligible to respond to this special notice.”

A: While a Crosstown University may be able to achieve the desired end goal of getting ROTC students involved with VICEROY activities on their own, we would very highly recommend that they include their partner, ROTC host institution as a formal member of the proposal team.

 

Q: We are putting together our consortium and want to include a 2-year institution. We may have missed it, but we did not see whether a 2-year could be part of the consortium. Can a 2-year institution be included? Also, are industry partners allowed as a team member?

A: First question: Yes, 2-year institutions can be members of a proposed consortia. Second question: The special notice highlighted the important role that industry partners can play in enhancing educational opportunities and, to that end, we welcome and encourage you to include details of any such proposed partnerships. Please note, however, that VICEROY consortia membership and any corresponding award funding is intended for academic institutions only.

 

Q: The program says "The VICEROY program is intended to increase the quantity and quality of students who possess job-ready DoD cyber and electromagnetic spectrum operational skills." Are both cyber and electromagnetic aspects required in an institute?

A: The original authorizing language emphasized critical cyber operational skills, but the goals of the VICEROY program were expanded to also include electromagnetic spectrum operational skills. We strongly encourage proposing consortia to form strategic partnerships that cover both of these facets, ideally in a deeply integrated way. But individual, member institutions within a consortium may focus on one or both subject matter areas.


Q&As from 1st Round

Q: About 10 days ago, info was sent to us on the VICEROY program and our faculty have decided to apply (it took us a while to see if we could build a strong consortium). The proposal team had some questions about things that were not clear from the announcement and I was hoping that you would be able to provide some guidance for us.

  1. The first question is whether the Virtual Institute should apply to undergraduate students only, or whether it should also include graduate students. Given that groups like ROTC and serving military students can be both undergraduates and graduate students, we were wondering whether to include both in our proposal or only undergrads.
  2. Is it possible to include in the proposal budgets funding for students to attend conferences (travel and conference fees)? We feel that this is an excellent opportunity for students to meet their peers and to be exposed to the latest cutting edge research and techniques. This would not be a lot of the funds (approx. $15k) but we were wondering whether this was allowable under the program.

A:

  1. The VICEROY program is primarily intended to serve undergraduates, but we welcome participation by graduate students; especially in the capacity of providing additional mentorship and stewardship of research efforts.
  2. We agree that conference attendance is a great activity for students to participate in, but we ask that you please consider the uncertainty of the timing of the return of in-person events and non-essential travel when preparing your cost estimates.

 

Q: I am writing to confirm that the 10-page maximum requirement does, in fact, include the budget and justification pages. Per the RFP, it seems that the 10 pages includes: 

  • Cover sheet: The coversheet should have the title, all consortium institution names and associated PIs.
  • Project Executive Summary (1 page)
  • Project Description: To include a Plan of Action and Milestones or other Work Breakdown Structure
  • Assessment Plan
  • Budget and Budget Justification

For a multi-university proposal, the full budget sheets and budget justifications could easily consume 5 pages, leaving very little room for the "project description", after accounting for the cover sheet (1 page), project summary (1 page), and assessment plan. So, my question is do the budget sheets and budget justifications count against the 10-page limit? If so, is the expectation that the project description only provide a high-level description of proposed activities, etc?

A: It was our intent for the budget and justification pages to count against the page limit. We did not anticipate that those sections would consume half of the allotted page count. To the greatest extent possible, we would like to encourage you to find a more succinct way to present the important budget information, rather than lower the fidelity of the project description.

 

Q: May the Executive Summary for a VICEROY proposal begin on the bottom of the cover page?

A: For readability purposes, we would prefer that the executive summary is on its own page.

 

Q: Is it appropriate in the VICEROY proposal to mention cost sharing in the proposal such as tuition waivers and 0.5 mo. of salary support generated by the Facilities & Administrative (i.e., from institutional overhead) costs?

A: Proposers are welcome to include any information that they feel will enhance the quality of their proposal. This specific information, for example, may be pertinent when discussing not only base year cost-sharing, but also sustainment plans.

 

Q: The VICEROY CFP mentions a foreign language requirement. How much foreign language is required or recommended, e.g., one semester, one year of college credit?

A: In line with an answer above, there are no fixed proficiency requirements. This is likely going to be dependent on the service- and/or mission-specific needs of any prospective government partners.

 

Q: Currently, many research offices are kind of closing in a few days. Do you expect the proposal package to be submitted by VPR (research office) of the university ? Is it possible the lead PIs in the consortium to submit the proposal package?

A: It is expected that the lead PI, or someone on their behalf, will submit the proposal package using the specified web portal.

 

Q: While Element 2 specifically says "strategic foreign language" the subsequent elements say "strategic language". Give the cyber context of 1640 and the local context of each element. Can we assume that elements referencing "strategic language" mean strategic coding languages such as C, Javascript, Python, etc..?

A: Our interpretation is that efforts to meet the required program elements should be complementary in nature, such that "strategic language" and "strategic foreign language" are assumed to be interchangeable in the authorizing language.

 

Q: Typically, what is meant by foreign language proficiency training, e.g., 1 semester or 2 semesters of foreign language coursework or the equivalent? Are there specific languages of interest?

A: The Defense Language and National Security Education Office maintains a corpus of policy and governance related to foreign language proficiency, including a strategic language list: https://dlnseo.org/content/flpb#sll. In the context of the VICEROY program, specific languages of interest and proficiency goals are likely to be dictated by a consortium's envisioned partnership with government, as these are likely to be service- and/or mission-specific decisions. Generally speaking, you can likely expect to see an emphasis placed on Russian, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, and Persian languages as being important to the cyber domain.

 

Q: The VICEROY CFP mentions "student internship ... arrangements in partnership with local industry or government facilities will be executed by the GI (Griffiss Institute)". We have a military lab, several national labs and industry partners who are providing letters of commitment/interest in supporting VICEROY interns. We also have a list of military command options to which students can apply. Is this okay or must the GI make all internship arrangements? For those internships GI does arrange is travel to and from the internship supplied? Will the GI arranged internships be paid by the host or must money come from the VICEROY grant?

A: The VICEROY CFP mentions "student internship ... arrangements in partnership with local industry or government facilities will be executed by the GI (Griffiss Institute)". We have a military lab, several national labs and industry partners who are providing letters of commitment/interest in supporting VICEROY interns. We also have a list of military command options to which students can apply. Is this okay or must the GI make all internship arrangements? This is allowable however GI will meet with internship host site to set up work plan and monitoring of interns, For those internships GI does arrange is travel to and from the internship supplied? Yes Gi will arrange travel to and from host site as well as provide housing stipend and pay for that internship Will the GI arranged internships be paid by the host or must money come from the VICEROY grant? Funding is available for a certain number of interns and Research Assistants in this grant- a number over the allowed interns would be through University received funding.

 

Q: The solicitation states "...proposals should make it clear what, if any, labor costs are being used to support faculty or other advisory or supervisory staff; as the goal of the VICEROY program is to have the students, and not the institutions, be the primary beneficiaries of any award funds." Question:

  1. Is there any additional specific guidance on what percentage of funding can be allocated to faculty or other support personnel that will oversee the VI operations?
  2. Are participating universities allowed to charge their usual indirect cost rates?

A: 

  1. There is no specific guidance or fixed benchmarks.
  2. In line with above answers, for the purposes of budget estimation we make no meaningful distinction between direct and indirect costs.

 

Q: We have active research collaborations with our campus ROTC programs. The cadets have diverse majors beyond computer science and we have found that effectively immersing them in research requires some additional training. There is great value in immersing non CS future officers in cyber research. Is it ok to budget in some on demand cyber training to get them up to speed?

A: If the proposing consortium sees value in including ROTC cadets from non-traditional cyber majors, then we would gladly consider any supporting activities that would optimize their involvement.

 

Q: In subsection a. Objective, under the topic overview Section the solicitation states "The VICEROY program is intended to increase the quantity and quality of students who possess job-ready DoD cybersecurity skills upon graduation." In subsection b. Description under the topic overview Section, the solicitation states "We envision the experiential learning opportunities afforded by VICEROY Virtual Institutes as taking the shape of faculty-led, multi-institution, multi-year research endeavors that specifically target cyberspace and electromagnetic spectrum operations challenges of interest to the Department of Defense." Question: The two statements seem to indicate a desire for the proposed VI to focus "cybersecurity", "cyberspace" (which is more general area), and "electromagnetic spectrum" operations. Should the focus/scope span cyberspace operations generally or should the focus be on research specific to

  1. cybersecurity and electromagnetic spectrum operations or
  2. on cybersecurity only as it relates electromagnetic spectrum and wireless communications operations?

A: The use of "cybersecurity skills" in subsection 2.a. was a mistake. This should more accurately be "cyber operational skills" matching the introduction section and the authorizing Congressional language. The emphasis on electromagnetic spectrums operations was added to potentially facilitate partnership with government agencies that may have cyber expertise but serve a different primary mission. Proposals that cover the breadth of combined cyber and electromagnetic spectrum operations or instead focus on a subset of that combination, e.g. cybersecurity, are both acceptable and welcomed.

 

Q: As our team consists of multiple institutions, do we need to put non-PI institutions' budget as subcontracts under PI's institution? Or can each participating institution submit a budget to receive funding separately if awarded?

A: The lead institution is responsible submitting the proposal on behalf of the entire consortium, with a breakout of costs for each member institution expected to be included in this submission. Should the consortium be selected for funding, it is anticipated that member institutions will enter into sub-award contracts directly with the Griffiss Institute.

 

Q: 

  1. We will involve ROTC cadets and civilian cybersecurity bachelor's students with an interest in DoD support careers. These will me mentored in research by PhD students. Do the PhD students who mentor the ROTC cadets and civilian undergraduates need to be US citizens or permanent residents?
  2. Our PhD mentors will be supported for one year each as they are trained in cybersecurity education and as mentors for undergraduates. Will DoD allow us to consider these PhD mentors as participants so we do not have to charge F&A on their support. This will allow us to support a greater number of mentors and a greater number of ROTC and civilian undergraduate cybersecurity trainees.

A: 

  1. Depending on the nature of the partnership between the virtual institute and any government agencies, there may be a requirement that any party involved with a collaborative research effort is eligible for a security clearance. There may be additional requirements related to physical access to government facilities or export controls placed on research materials.
  2. Aside from selection for the hands-on learning opportunities executed by the Griffiss Institute, the VICEROY program makes no significant distinction between students associated with a virtual institute beyond whether or not they are a ROTC cadet.

 

Q: For faculty trainer participants, should we include their Current & Pending support, or only their Biographical Sketches?

A: The proposer is welcome to include this supplemental information in the appendix. But, again, only the information explicitly requested in the special notice will be used for evaluation purposes.

 

Q: 

  1. Per the VICEROY announcement, up to one consortium award will be made per region, as defined by the NCAE-C program. Must all members of a proposed VICEROY Institute be within the same region or will the lead institution’s location determine the region of a proposed VI? We are part of an existing consortium comprising institutions from various regions.
  2. Are there specific forms (cover sheet, budget and budget justification, Bio sketches) that should be used for the proposal submission?
  3. Per the VICEROY announcement, a complete proposal package should not exceed 10 pages. Does this 10-page limit only apply to the project description or do the 1-page project summary, assessment plan, budget/budget justification documents count against the 10-page limit?

A: 

  1. Region will be determined by the location of the submitting/lead institution for the consortium.
  2. No special forms.
  3. See section IV proposal Layout- A complete proposal package should consist of the following elements (not to exceed 10 pages):
  • Cover sheet: The coversheet should have the title, all consortium institution names and associated PIs.
  • Project Executive Summary (1 page)
  • Project Description: To include a Plan of Action and Milestones or other Work Breakdown Structure
  • Assessment Plan
  • Budget and Budget Justification
  • Appendix (not counting against the page limit)
    • Biographical sketches: Biographical sketches are requested for all the PIs.
    • References Cited

 

Q: Per the announcement, “It is highly recommended that this lead institution be classified as having “very high research activity,” per the Carnegie Classification of Institutes of Higher Education, and a demonstrated history of successfully conducting research under government contract.” Is it a hard requirement that the lead University be an R1 (very high research activity) institution? Would a consortium (comprising both R1 and R2 institutions) led by an R2 institution be ineligible to submit to the VICEROY program?

A: This is not a hard requirement, though please note that the combined qualifications of consortium member institutions, including the proposed consortium management structure, is an element of the evaluation criteria.

 

Q: 

  1. We have internship commitment letters from the Keyport Naval Undersea Warfare Command, two National Labs and and several Industries. Can we append these letters to the 10-page proposal?
  2. Are there guidelines on font size, e.g., 12pt Times Roman, and margins, e.g., 1", font sizes for figure captions and tables, etc.?

A: Commitment Letters may be included in the appendix, not to count against the page limit, but only the content in the in the main proposal package will be used for selection purposes. Suggested font would be 12pt Times New Roman and 1 inch margins.

 

Q: The RFP mentions support of cyber education in regional school systems and up to five institutions. We currently are targeting Washington State University (WSU), the University of Idaho (UI) and Montana State University (MSU). We want to make sure we do not cross over into what may be considered as another region. Would WSU, UI and MSU be considered the same region? We are all in the Pacific Northwest, but we want to make sure. Is the $1.5 million total costs or costs before adding university indirect costs?

A: Per the special notice, regions are defined by the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity program. Washington, Idaho, and Montana all fall within the "North Western Region" of this program. For the purposes of budget estimation, there is no distinction between direct and indirect costs. Estimates should include all anticipated costs and should be respectful of the limits indicated in the special notice.

 

Q: 

  1. Is the $1.5 million cap for direct costs and therefore we can add institutionally approved indirect costs, 53% facilities and administrative costs, above that?
  2. To what extend is PhD and MS level training encouraged vs. Bachelor's degrees.
  3. Can PhD students be trainee participants for which an institution does not charge indirect costs (facilities & administration fees), much like an NSF or NIH Training Program?
  4. Can a part time Project Coordinator be supported on a CI VICEROY grant?
  5. What fraction of the work should be dedicated toward ROTC cadets, and what fraction to civilian students?

A: For the purposes of budget estimation, there is no distinction between direct and indirect costs. Estimates should include all anticipated costs and should be respectful of the limits indicated in the special notice. The VICEROY program is primarily intended to support undergraduate students, although we welcome graduate student involvement especially in the capacity of augmenting research faculty and other staff in providing mentorship and stewardship of research opportunities. In line with this, PhD students, faculty, and other staff to include project coordinators, are all allowable costs; though again we make no differentiation between direct and indirect costs. There is no specified fraction of the work that should be dedicated toward ROTC cadets, though please note the emphasis on ROTC programs is explicit in the authorizing language of NDAA FY19 Sect. 1640 and, thus, their involvement is critically important to meeting Congressional intent.

 

Q: What should be considered as a start date range, e.g., as early as March 1, 2021, as late as August or September, 2021? Is it anticipated that VICEROY program grants will be renewable?

A: Sub-awards will be made as soon as is reasonably possible after the selection process completes, likely in January 2021. Post-award start dates are flexible and should be dictated by the proposed virtual institute structure and associated activities. The special notice asks for a recurring, option year funding estimate, but no follow-on funding is guaranteed at this point in time.