Cyber Spending Expected to Increase
Photo: Defense Dept.The Defense Department recently elevated U.S. Cyber Command to a full-fledged, unified combatant command, as threats in the digital domain continue to grow. However, the long-term budgetary implications of the move remain unclear, said a leading analyst.
President Donald Trump requested $647 million for Cybercom in fiscal year 2018, a 16 percent increase from the previous year. The extra money would help the command make the transition and beef up its mission force, officials have said. The buildup is slated to be completed by the end of 2018.
Trump administration officials touted Cybercom’s elevation as a major milestone.
“This decision is a significant step in the department’s continued efforts to build its cyber capabilities, enabling Cyber Command to provide real, meaningful capabilities … on par with the other geographic and functional combatant commands,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security Kenneth Rapuano told reporters during a briefing at the Pentagon.
Going forward, the command will have a greater role in “advocating for and prioritizing cyber investments within the department,” he said.
How much influence the command will actually wield over acquisitions in the long run is unclear at this point, said Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“Real authority in DoD is budget authority,” he said. “Does Cybercom get more budget authority, more money that falls under the command not under the services?” he asked.
Cybercom is slated to receive $75 million annually from Congress through fiscal year 2021 to buy its own hardware and software from companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. But unlike U.S. Special Operations Command, for example, Cybercom does not currently control its own acquisition portfolio, and it is reliant on capabilities purchased by other defense agencies.
“SOCOM has budget authority. They have their own independent acquisition,” Harrison said. “They can do a lot of things. And I don’t know right now from the proposal that’s out there if this new Cybercom would have those kinds of authorities [in the future]. But that’s what really matters.”
Regardless of whether Cybercom receives that type of budget authority, Harrison expects overall Pentagon spending on cybersecurity to grow in the coming years.
“Every other weapon system in every other domain has a cyber component to it,” he said. “That trend is going to continue because their weapon systems are becoming more and more dependent on software and on networks, … [and] the services will be spending a greater share of their budgets on protecting those networks and building them and securing them.”