WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Friday proposed a $10.4 billion cybersecurity budget for the Department of Defense next year and plans to add significantly to the cyber mission force responsible for cyberspace national security.
The request is 6 percent more than the $9.8 billion sought for DoD cybersecurity in the previous administration’s last budget plan, breaking a streak of flat cyber requests and showing the anxiety among policymakers about growing cyberattacks, especially ones with the potential to disrupt critical infrastructure or weapon systems.
The DoD will add 14 teams to U.S. Cyber Command’s cyber mission force over the next three years, an official familiar with the plan told C4ISRNET, speaking anonymously because the full details have not been released publicly.
The force that Cyber Command calls its “action arm” has not grown since it was designed in 2012, numbering 133 teams and roughly 6,200 service members. The cyber threat landscape has changed significantly since that time, leading members of Congress as well as a congressional commission to request more personnel.
While leaders hinted there could be growth to the workforce, the budget provides more concrete details. Specifically, DoD requested four additional cyber mission force teams for fiscal 2022. About $2.5 billion of the budget request would support filling, training and equipping these new cyber specialists. Politico first reported the DoD’s plan to grow the force.
At the time of publication, the breakdown of which services will provide the teams was unclear, along with the specific types of teams.
The types of teams could signal the department’s priorities and where it needs assistance to combat cyber threats. The cyber mission force includes:
- cyber protection teams that conduct defensive operations
- combat mission teams that handle cyber operations on behalf of combatant commands mostly in the offensive sphere
- cyber support teams to provide intelligence, mission planning and other necessary support work for combat mission teams and,
- national mission teams, which form the Cyber National Mission Force that conducts offensive operations to defend the nation.
The bulk of the Biden administration’s DoD cyber request — about $5.6 billion of it — would go toward protection of IT systems.
The Biden administration placed a major focus on network protections after several breaches in late 2020 and 2021 that highlighted vulnerabilities in information systems. The ask, which is $200 million more than last year’s request, is primarily focusing on next-generation encryption, network modernization and security solutions that allow for data to pass across security enclaves, trying to invest in systems that are “more agile, effective and efficient” while building on “important initiatives established in FY2021.”
The department has signaled publicly for several years that it’s seeking more advanced cybersecurity architectures, particularly zero trust. Aside from the SolarWinds attack that afflicted government systems, DoD officials said that the COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding telework orders accelerated the conversation at the department about cybersecurity, both for unclassified and classified work.
The department requested $615 million for efforts related to zero-trust cybersecurity architectures, an information security approach in which users are inherently distrusted and must regularly verify their identities. Zero trust is viewed at the Pentagon as the future of cybersecurity. The department has launched a zero trust lab and several pilots to explore the opportunities. The Pentagon’s CIO office is also exploring the creation of a zero trust portfolio management office, responsible for guiding the department toward the concept and sharing best practices with partners.
The department wants to invest $980.9 million in cryptology modernization for next-generation mission systems and platforms as adversaries become more capable of breaking into secure systems. The department also requested $315.8 million in cross-domain solutions, or cybersecurity systems that allow information sharing across security classifications. Cross-domain solutions are viewed are critical piece of the Pentagon’s future war-fighting concept known as Joint All-Domain Command and Control, where users will have to pass and access data across the security enclaves.
Similarly, the department asks for $243.9 million for identity and credential access management modernization efforts to “align with and utilize emerging technology and architectures.” That’s another important piece of securing JADC2 because help verify the identity of users. Earlier this year, Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall, CIO/J6 of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and leader for JADC2 said that he had not seen an ICAM solution from industry that meets his needs.
Lastly, the department requested $339.7 million for endpoint management and automated continuous monitoring, a tool that allows visibility into DoD devices’ cybersecurity posture.
On the cyber operations front, the budget asks for $4.3 billion, which overall will go toward cyber collection, intelligence preparation of the environment, defensive and offensive cyber.
More specifically, it requests $181.9 million for further development and employment of capabilities to integrate command and control to enhance multidomain operations, $715 million for DoD mission assurance activities to increase resilience and implement mitigations to reduce vulnerability of key assets. It also would allot $147.2 million for hunt-forward operations, teams deployed to other nations to help them defend against malign cyber activity inside their networks. DoD officials believe these missions are critical to defending the U.S. homeland as they provide unique insights into activities of adversaries, which may be planning similar operations against U.S. networks. Last year, Cyber Command asked Congress for an additional $13.8 million for these operations in what’s known as unfunded priorities. The budget proposal include $113.9 million to further develop Unified Platform, a critical piece of Cyber Command’s infrastructure that will ingest data and serve as the center of its capability architecture.
Cyber Command, specifically, asked for $605 million for its general budget, which covers the headquarters staff and the Cyber National Mission Force, Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of Cyber Command, wrote in congressional testimony this year.
“USCYBERCOM is working with the Services and the Office of the Secretary of Defense to direct CMF funding in a more collaborative effort while allowing for informed tradeoffs (across the Services) based on operational needs,” he wrote.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.
Andrew Eversden covers all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.