Defense budget zeroes in on cyber spending

Image of the Pentagon

President Barack Obama's $496 billion defense budget for fiscal 2015 includes a $5.1 billion request for cyber operations, making it more than 1 percent of the total Pentagon request.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had already previewed some of the major moves in the budget and the process behind them on Feb. 24, outlining plans to downsize on the personnel side while spending more on technology.

"We are repositioning to focus on the strategic challenges and opportunities that will define our future: new technologies, new centers of power, and a world that is growing more volatile, more unpredictable, and in some instances more threatening to the United States," Hagel said when he unveiled his first budget as secretary.

But the March 4 budget release offered few new specifics on cyber spending, much of which is spread across dozens of programs or hidden in classified spending.

As Hagel warned, troop levels are expected to decline -- the budget accounts for an active-duty Army between 440,000 and 450,000 strong, down nearly 30 percent from the post-Sept. 11 peak of 570,000. U.S. Cyber Command would continue to grow, however, swelling its ranks from 900 last year to a projected 4,900 by the close of 2016.

But the still-new command has its work cut out for it, even with the "full funding for cyber operations, which will enable both offensive and defensive capabilities across the full range of cyber contingencies" that the fiscal 2015 budget promises.

Testifying before Congress last year, Gen. Keith Alexander, who currently heads CyberCom, projected that more than 100 teams tasked with defending U.S. military networks -- rather than attacking potential aggressors -- would be on line by the close of 2016. In written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 27, Alexander said only 17 of the planned 133 cyber mission teams are operating so far.

Analysts acknowledge that in some ways, scant information on cyber funding is a necessary evil, but say it still does not allay fears of inadequate preparation in a time of overall budgetary belt-tightening.

"What we get are isolated pieces of information about the cyber programs, because anything more than that would diminish the effectiveness of the overall program," said Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute. "The Defense Department is facing a wide array of cyber challenges and it's doing better on some things than others. … Cybersecurity is probably getting as much money as it needs, but the government doesn't seem to have the right model for spending the money effectively."

Without mentioning specific amounts, the budget will boost funding for the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative Five, an effort to create real-time connections between cybersecurity centers and other sources of analysis, Defense Systems reported.

The budget doesn’t get into specifics about robotics and unmanned systems, but that is another priority area for DOD, according to Defense Systems. The department recently released a 25-year Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap that outlines plans for smart, networked unmanned systems on land, air and sea. Whether airborne drones, robotic trucks or unmanned underwater minehunters.

About the Author

Gayle Putrich is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.


  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

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