Pentagon to Ask for More Cyber Spending in Next Budget

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the department would focus more on intelligence gathering, reconnaissance.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel responds to a question from a reporter at the Pentagon, September 18, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia.
National Journal
Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
Feb. 19, 2014, 5:55 a.m.

The Pentagon’s cy­ber budget will get a boost as part of the de­part­ment’s fisc­al 2015 budget re­quest, De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel said Tues­day.

“We are ad­just­ing our as­set base and our new tech­no­logy,” the Pentagon’s top of­fi­cial said, adding that the de­part­ment will in­crease spend­ing to help im­prove its cy­ber cap­ab­il­it­ies, in­clud­ing a lar­ger fo­cus on cy­ber se­cur­ity, in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing, and re­con­nais­sance.

The de­part­ment’s budget re­quest will be re­leased March 4, as part of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s budget, and the sec­ret­ary is ex­pec­ted to of­fer a pre­view Monday. Hagel and oth­er top De­fense of­fi­cials have largely sidestepped ques­tions about what spend­ing they are ask­ing to have in­creased — or what pro­grams to cut.

“Of course, it’s go­ing to shift the pro­pri­et­ies and the bal­ance of forces, and where you in­vest your money to be able to en­sure read­i­ness for your forces, cap­ab­il­ity, “¦ and ca­pa­city,” Hagel said.

The De­fense De­part­ment, he said, is in a time of trans­ition, deal­ing with a budget crunch and ad­just­ing its fo­cus as it wraps up ma­jor U.S. troop in­volve­ment in two wars.

Of­fi­cials pre­vi­ously said they would re­quest $542 bil­lion for the up­com­ing fisc­al year, but Decem­ber’s budget agree­ment put base spend­ing for the Pentagon at about $498 bil­lion.

Fund­ing aside, the de­part­ment’s in­creased fo­cus on cy­ber doesn’t come without its own road bumps, Hagel said.

“One of the com­plic­a­tions we have is there’s a line “¦ between the private sec­tor and the De­fense De­part­ment,” the sec­ret­ary said, while ac­know­ledging that the de­part­ment already has a “tre­mend­ous ca­pa­city” to deal with the grow­ing cy­ber threat.

It’s not the first time Hagel has soun­ded the alarm on DOD’s in­creased fo­cus on cy­ber, and he’s not alone. De­fense of­fi­cials called cy­ber­at­tacks the greatest threat to na­tion­al se­cur­ity in a De­fense News Lead­er­ship poll re­leased earli­er this year.

And FBI Dir­ect­or James Comey, then-act­ing Home­land Se­cur­ity Sec­ret­ary Rand Beers, and Mat­thew Olsen, the dir­ect­or the Na­tion­al Coun­terter­ror­ism Cen­ter, pressed the Sen­ate Home­land Se­cur­ity and Gov­ern­ment­al Af­fairs Com­mit­tee for great­er co­oper­a­tion between the gov­ern­ment and cor­por­a­tions on boost­ing cy­ber­se­cur­ity.

Al­though the White House re­leased guidelines to help busi­nesses de­fend them­selves earli­er this month, they’re vol­un­tary, and it’s un­clear how much the ad­min­is­tra­tion can do to en­force the stand­ards without le­gis­la­tion from Con­gress.

Hagel’s com­ments came dur­ing a wide-ran­ging Q&A at Con­greg­a­tion Beth El in Beth­esda, Md., on Tues­day night; the ses­sion is part of the syn­agogue’s “Con­ver­sa­tions with Key Amer­ic­an Lead­ers” series with Ken Fein­berg, an at­tor­ney who over­saw the 9/11 Vic­tim Com­pens­a­tion Fund.

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