Carter touts cyber capabilities at budget hearing

At a March 17 Senate Armed Services Committee budget hearing, legislators wanted to know if investments in IT innovation are enough to face potential threats from Russia and China.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Photo credit: Sean Lyngaas, FCW

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, shown here at the 2016 RSA conference, testified March 17 before the Senate Armed Services Committee. (Photo credit: Sean Lyngaas, FCW)

The Secretary of Defense testified on March 17 that the Pentagon is doing more in cyber, electronic warfare and space operations, and that U.S. force are better positioned to face evolving threats from potential adversaries with the current budget proposal.

"We must have and be seen to have the ability to ensure that anyone who strikes a conflict with us will regret doing so," Ash Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee while speaking about DOD's budget request of $582.7 billion for fiscal 2017. This includes $34 billion for investments in cyber, electronic warfare and space.

Key to the department's approach is the ability to deter some of the more advanced competitors, namely Russia and China, according to Carter.

"Our reliance in technology has given us great strength and great opportunities, but also led to vulnerabilities that adversaries are eager to exploit," he said. "We must and will be prepared for a high-end enemy, what we call full spectrum. In this context, Russia and China are our most stressing competitors, as they both developed and continued to advance military systems and seek to threaten our advantages in specific areas."

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the Armed Services Committee's ranking Democrat, noted in his opening remarks that though the readiness of troops is integral, investments in modernization should not be neglected.

"While difficult choices must be made, we must ensure that this budget does not jeopardize ... targeted investments in research and development that foster new technology," Reed said.

While defending the risks the department could take when it comes to innovation, Carter said that because "our potential enemies take those risks, we need to take those risks also."

Carter assured the committee that the $34 billion budget request will, among other things, "help build our cyber mission force, develop next generational electronic jammers and prepare for a possibility of conflict that extends into space."

He also mentioned the 133 cyber mission teams at U.S. Cyber Command, which include operations to counter the Islamic State. Carter will be meeting with their chief, Adm. Mike Rogers, this week on how to expand on that front.

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