Case Study: Powering Global Collaboration at Food Protection and Defense Institute


May 29, 2018

The National Center for Food Protection and Defense (NCFPD) was officially launched as a Homeland Security Center of Excellence in July 2004 at the University of Minnesota. A critical component of the nation’s food safety network, NCFPD is tasked with addressing vulnerabilities within the nation’s food system and coordinating a prompt global response to any deliberate attacks on our food supplies.

NCFPD turned to CoSo Cloud for a hosted collaboration platform that could securely and reliably connect federal agencies, state and local governments, food manufacturers, medical research centers, public health officials and other important members of the nation’s food ecosystem in order to maintain close and constant cooperation in protecting our nation’s intricate food system. This vital communication hub is especially mission critical during times of crisis when any disruption of service or network intrusion puts the lives of hundreds of millions Americans at risk.

Most recently during the Ebola crisis, the system enabled the Center to provide virtual work groups that allowed government stakeholders to share information and provide an immediate response to the threat. But the system has done even more to combat the many threats of deliberate food contamination, including terrorism and corruption, such as 2008’s Chinese milk scandal in which the chemical melamine was added to infant formula. 



The food and agriculture field is vast and spread across multiple agencies. NCFPD saw the need for a centralized platform to unite those in the nation that needed to coordinate from different organizations, sectors, and physical locations, but it was mindful that the system would generate large volumes of communication threads containing highly sensitive information about our nation’s food supply and threat response plans. Protecting our food system means protecting the information that’s communicated beyond NCFPD’s firewall between the Center and its global partners; the Center needed a FedRAMP1-compliant platform that they could 100% depend on to connect with partners via virtual meetings, training and other sessions while defending against information security attacks and accidental exposure of classified data.

The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) is a government-wide program providing a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. Its primary goal is to help government agencies migrate to the cloud in a secure manner by endorsing and certifying cloud service providers that have met the most rigorous testing available. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a component of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), officially granted CoSo Cloud the FedRAMP Authority To Operate (ATO) at the Moderate impact level in September 2015.



CoSo Cloud worked with NCFPD to launch FoodSHIELD, a specially designed web-based collaboration portal powered by CoSo Cloud and Adobe Connect for communication, coordination, education, and training among the nation’s food and agriculture sectors. At the start, CoSo Cloud provided a dedicated professional services team that worked with NCFPD to develop a solution strategy and architecture that was tailored to meet the Center’s specific needs in terms of performance, scalability, and cost.

The nature of the Center’s organizational mission also meant delivering a solution with a level of security and real-time reporting that few providers could offer with their limited government experience and expertise. By the time NCFPD was working with CoSo Cloud, the latter’s digital communication solutions were used and trusted to protect the mission-critical communications of over a dozen government agencies, including the Department of the Defense, for which they deployed and managed the Defense Connect Online (DCO). (Connecting more than one million users across all of the nation’s Armed Forces, it remains the largest ever unified communications network in the world.) And with CoSo Cloud’s redundant worldwide architecture, complete storage and daily backup of all relevant systems, NCFPD could be confident in total system reliability.

With CoSo Cloud’s expertise in planning, deployment and onboarding, NCFPD was able to roll out the new FoodSHIELD portal on time, on budget and with 100% adoption.



NCFPD’s FoodSHIELD proved to be highly effective in combating threats to our nation’s food system. NCFPD has since delivered a host of other portals dedicated to specific tasks such as CoreSHIELD, which enables the secure exchange of information for the nation’s critical infrastructures and now serves as the underlying framework for FoodSHIELD. Following this success, several additional portals and applications have been added to NCFPD’s portfolio of Information Sharing Environments, including the Food Emergency Response Network, which extends the operational capabilities of the nation’s food-testing laboratories, helping them respond even faster to the biological, chemical or radiological contamination of food.

With over 10,000 active users, CoreSHIELD is now the preferred gateway for communication, collaboration, education, and training among the nation’s critical infrastructure stakeholders. Fundamental to CoreSHIELD is the Common Organizational Registry Environment, which provides role-based contact information and capabilities such as document management, workgroups, online meetings, e-learning, calendaring, secure-send, user authentication and single sign-on, all of which can be shared and leveraged by the portals and applications residing on CoreSHIELD.



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