Chiefs: DOD cyber will suffer under a continuing resolution

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The Joint Chiefs of Staff didn't pull any punches when telling the House Armed Services Committee the impact of passing another continuing resolution rather than a full fiscal year 2017 budget before the federal government's spending authority runs out on April 28.

"Candidly, failure to pass a budget in my view as both an American citizen and the chief of staff of the United States Army constitutes professional malpractice," said Gen. Mark Milley. "I don't think we should accept it as the new normal," he told lawmakers, urging them to "pass the budget."

He and the other chiefs said that under a CR, any efforts to grow end strength would halt. New procurements and new programs will not happen. Money will have to be pulled from other areas to prioritize readiness and training, which would both take a hit.

Modernization? Forget about it, said the chiefs.

The House passed the 2017 defense budget and submitted a full budget to the Senate in March. While appropriators are optimistic about passing a budget to cover the rest of fiscal year 2017, as of now, another continuing resolution or even a potential government shutdown looms.

There is little the HASC can do at this point except call attention to the impact a CR would have on the Defense Department. Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and other members have stated they will not vote for a CR.

Navy chief Adm. John Richardson said that while the U.S. military has spent eight years facing continuing resolutions and sequestration, adversaries such as China and Russia have been modernizing and growing their capabilities.

One area in particular where adversaries have gained ground that would be hit hard by a CR is cyber, said the chiefs.

"The impact of the continuing resolution means that we're not going to be able to finish the facilities at Fort Gordon, which is the Cyber School Center of Excellence," Milley said. "It means that the National Guard is not going to be able to field their cyber protection teams ... and we will not be able to continue our level of training that we need to do for the teams that are already formed in the regular Army."

Milley said that a CR would also stop the recent momentum in recruiting qualified cyber warriors.

The CR would also undermine work being done to upgrade systems to make them more cyber resilient, according to Richardson.

"Our latest development in that is to stand up the digital warfare office this year on my staff that will work with the fleets to enhance our agility in the information domain across the board," he said. "It's a very comprehensive program ... but that will stop without this funding."

Air Force chief Gen. David Goldfein said that a CR would undermine the work of Adm. Michael Rogers, head of U.S. Cyber Command, because each of the services contribute cyber mission teams to CyberCom.

"This extended CR will have an impact on all of our ability to be able to put those teams in place and allow him to accomplish the mission that he's been given at the very national level," he said.

Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the Marines, said that he's struggling to keep young Marines who are getting offers from the private sector, and a CR will make it more difficult to find bonus money and other incentives to keep them.

"We're going to have to treat cyber like special operations -- once you're in, you're in because the investment's too high to get them trained," he said.  "But then I've got to figure out how to pay them, or get a contract out of them long enough to get a return."

The chiefs also stressed that industry would also be hit by a CR, and not just because it would mean the DOD would have less money to spend, but because of the uncertainty over whether contracts in process will go forward.

"Industry has to have predictable funding, and we can't do that," Milley said.

About the Author

Sean Carberry is a former FCW staff writer who focused on defense, cybersecurity and intelligence.


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