Cybersecurity

Top cyber brass warn Congress on sequestration

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A return to sequestration-level spending would be a major setback to U.S. cyber forces that are steadily maturing, top military cyber commanders warned Congress on March 4.

The defense cuts would significantly affect U.S. Cyber Command's ability to defend Defense Department information networks, National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers, who heads the command, told the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities.

The automated spending cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 are set to return in fiscal 2016, and require new legislation to be rolled back. At a separate hearing March 4, a top Democrat on the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee said there were "insurmountable obstacles" in moving that legislation forward.  

Service cyber commanders testifying with Rogers echoed the NSA chief’s warning. Sequester-level spending would throw a "monkey wrench" in the Navy's network modernization plans, said Vice Adm. Jan Tighe, head of Navy Fleet Cyber Command. The Navy's planned $1 billion in cyber spending from fiscals 2014 to 2020 is "built on the premise that our future budgets will not be drastically reduced by sequestration," she said.

Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, head of Army Cyber Command, said that sequestration would disrupt the Army's ongoing process of consolidating its information networks and could leave weapons systems vulnerable by depriving them of software upgrades. Some in the cyber workforce the Army has built up in recent months might have to be laid off, he added.

Sequestration threatens other non-IT aspects of cybersecurity, Rogers said, in that funding might fall short on a project to build out the infrastructure of Cyber Command.

The NSA chief also worried that sequestration could make private-sector work, which often offers big pay raises to those leaving government, look all the more alluring to the DOD cyber workforce.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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