Defense Department

Defense bill emphasizes cyber operations

US Cyber Command logo

The National Defense Authorization Act could lead to an increase in the stature of the U.S. Cyber Command, currently subordinate to U.S. Strategic Command.

The Defense Department is taking more aggressive steps in cyberspace, including clearer authorities, more oversight and a key partnership to identify and address gaps, due to provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2013.

Those provisions in the NDAA, which President Barack Obama signed into law on Jan. 2, require DOD officials to report on cyber operations to Congress on a quarterly basis, beginning March 1. It also outlines authorities and expectations for military forces in cyberspace.

‘‘The Secretary of Defense shall provide to the Committees on Armed Services of the House of Representatives and the Senate quarterly briefings on all offensive and significant defensive military operations in cyberspace carried out by the [DOD] during the immediately preceding quarter,” the NDAA text reads. It also orders the defense secretary to provide within 90 days “a briefing on the interagency process for coordinating and de-conflicting full-spectrum military cyber operations for the federal government,” as well as future cyber budgeting justification.

The NDAA text includes guidelines for faster reporting of network penetrations, as well as language that appears to open the door to elevating Cyber Command from a sub-unified command. Currently CYBERCOM is subordinate to U.S. Strategic Command, which is one of the military’s nine unified combatant commands. However, the Act's language is cautious: In a section titled "Sense of Congress on the United States Cyber Command," the Act notes that  "Congress expects to be briefed" on any proposed change to the command's status, including an outline of the expected benefits of the change and an estimate of the cost.  

Among the provided cyber authorities are clandestine operations and green lights for activities to, among other things, develop cyber weapons systems. There are details for implementing the much-discussed Joint Information Environment, as well as a next-generation, host-based DOD network defense.

That open-architecture, “plug-and-play” network defense system would need to be available for cloud environments as well as the battlefield, and would need to overcome shortfalls in current systems that “cannot address new or rapidly morphing threats; consume substantial amounts of communication capacity to remain current with known threats and to report current status; or consume substantial amounts of resources to store rapidly growing threat libraries.”

Additionally, the NDAA touches on better software security and more competition for acquiring large-scale data systems and tools.

To help DOD achieve the forward-looking cyber focus called for in the NDAA, science and technology also take on key roles, including research and development as well as workforce recruiting and training. The bill also directs the department to partner with the National Research Council for a full-scale review of specialized DOD programs science, technology, engineering, mathematics and management to meet evolving, high-tech and much-needed military skills.

The review will include an assessment of DOD’s needs for STEM professionals, an analysis of resources to find them, the need and costs for existing and potential in-house STEM-focused educational institutions and recommendations for identifying, managing and sourcing to meet DOD needs.

“The conferees recognize that fostering and increasing the science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and technology management skills of the DOD workforce is an ongoing challenge,” notes in the bill stated. “The conferees look forward to discussing these challenges with the department as the terms of reference for this effort are developed.”

About the Author

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

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.


  • Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign event. Image: Shutterstock

    'Buy American' order puts procurement in the spotlight

    Some IT contractors are worried that the "buy American" executive order from President Trump could squeeze key innovators out of the market.

  • OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, shown here in as a member of Congress in 2013. (Photo credit Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

    White House taps old policies for new government makeover

    New guidance from OMB advises agencies to use shared services, GWACs and federal schedules for acquisition, and to leverage IT wherever possible in restructuring plans.

  • Shutterstock image (by Everett Historical): aerial of the Pentagon.

    What DOD's next CIO will have to deal with

    It could be months before the Defense Department has a new CIO, and he or she will face a host of organizational and operational challenges from Day One

  • USAF Gen. John Hyten

    General: Cyber Command needs new platform before NSA split

    U.S. Cyber Command should be elevated to a full combatant command as soon as possible, the head of Strategic Command told Congress, but it cannot be separated from the NSA until it has its own cyber platform.

  • Image from Shutterstock.

    DLA goes virtual

    The Defense Logistics Agency is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to eliminate its IT infrastructure and transition to using exclusively shared, hosted and virtual services.

  • Fed 100 logo

    The 2017 Federal 100

    The women and men who make up this year's Fed 100 are proof positive of what one person can make possibile in federal IT. Read on to learn more about each and every winner's accomplishments.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group