DOD’s top brass blast sequestration, emphasize cyber in Senate testimonies

Two of the Defense Department’s highest-level leaders on June 13 testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee, using the opportunity to condemn the impending sequestration process and to stress the importance of cybersecurity legislation, among other issues in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta acknowledged the possibility of what Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called a “cyber Pearl Harbor.” In agreement with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, who also testified, Panetta voiced support for the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 – one of several bills circulating in Congress right now.

“Technologically, the capability to paralyze this country is there now,” Panetta said. “There’s a high risk.”

Panetta also said he had faith in DOD’s capabilities to defend its own networks, although he did express concern over those within the civilian government and the private-sector, particularly the defense industrial base.

“I feel very good about our capability to defend our systems with the help of NSA,” Panetta said. “It’s in the civilian area we have to improve. I’m concerned about the defense industrial base and I’m concerned about the critical infrastructure of this country.”

Panetta and Dempsey both reminded Congress of the potentially disastrous fallout of sequestration, which would cut nearly $500 billion from DOD over the next 10 years. Panetta, answering questions on the cuts’ effect on employment, said it would hurt all areas of DOD personnel – both military and civilian.

“We can’t yet say precisely how bad the damage would be, but it is clear that sequestration would risk hollowing out our force and reducing its military options available to the nation,” Dempsey said. “We would go from being unquestionably powerful everywhere to being less visibly globally and presenting less of an overmatch to our adversaries, and that would translate into a different deterrent calculus and potentially, therefore, increase the likelihood of conflict.”

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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