Cyber Defense

DOD's $6.7B cyber budget focused on emerging threats

The Defense Department’s 2017 budget request is looking to amp up spending on cyber operations to $6.7 billion, which would represent about a 16 percent increase from the spending enacted for fiscal 2016. It’s a response to the rising cyber threat, as well as to the sources of those threats.

“This budget marks a major inflection point for the Department of Defense,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in announcing the budget request. “Even as we fight today’s fights, we must also be prepared for the fights that might come in 10, 20, or 30 years.”

Two countries DOD is thinking about are Russia and China, who possess a technological sophistication beyond the Middle East adversaries the military has been focused on for the past decade and a half, but there are other emerging potential threats, whether in the form of state or non-state actors. That’s why one emphasis of the budget is to fill out the U.S. Cyber Command, which is planning a workforce of about 6,000 personnel in 133 teams across the military services. DOD expects to have the command fully in place by 2018.

The $6.7 billion request also covers funding to defensive and offensive cyber operations, cyber strategy and other capabilities. DOD said its wants to shore up cyber defenses and expand its available options for responding to a cyberattack.

Although cyber defense has long been a concern of DOD’s, countries such as China have upped the ante in recent years though a string of cyber attacks both on government and U.S. industry. And although the United States reached a cyber détente agreement with China in September, many in Congress and elsewhere are skeptical the agreement will hold. A report last year also revealed that China also has developed what is called “the Great Cannon,” capable of extending its censorship efforts outside its own borders as well as carrying out targeted cyber attacks.

Russia, meanwhile, has been carrying out aggressive cyber activities in Ukraine and was suspected in the sophisticated hack last summer of the Joint Chief’s unclassified email system.

Other emerging cyber adversaries include North Korea, which was culprit in the Sony hack, and Iran, the apparent source of a hacker group that gained access to the control system of a dam in New York.

Non-state actors are a growing concern, with “lone wolf” sympathizers to groups such as ISIS or the Assad regime in Syria looking to carry out attacks. ISIS itself has increased its online activity, both on social media—as a recruiting tool—and in more malicious, though still unsophisticated cyber activity. DOD, in fact, recently said it plans to take the cyber fight to ISIS.  

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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