WASHINGTON — The budget request for a command and control system to help U.S. Cyber Command plan missions more than doubled under the latest defense spending plan.

Joint Cyber Command and Control, or JCC2, will provide situational awareness, battle management, and information about cyber forces’ readiness levels for operations across the globe. The fiscal 2022 research and development budget proposed $79 million for the tool, one of the largest bumps in budget requests for Cyber Command tools.

Last year, the budget request for the system was $38.4 million, and the Pentagon at that time projected a proposed FY22 allotment of $51.4 million.

Cyber Command recently received enhanced authority to purchase capabilities, but it still relies on the military branches to procure systems on behalf of the joint cyber mission force. The Air Force is executive agent for JCC2, and the request appears in the service’s budget.

The Air Force said the increase is due to the transfer of several requirements and their funding to the JCC2 program to operationalize prototype battle space management, as well as the transition from the planning phase to the execution phase of software development. One big reason for the change is Project IKE, a tool to help military commanders make better decisions that started under the Pentagon’s next-generation research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has now officially transferred to the JCC2 program office.

JCC2 is one piece of what Cyber Command calls the Joint Cyber Warfighting Architecture, which guides the command’s acquisition and equipping priorities.

Other elements of the architecture include:

  • Common firing platforms for a comprehensive suite of cyber tools.
  • Sensors that support defense of the network and drive operational decisions.
  • The Persistent Cyber Training Environment, which will provide individual and collective training as well as mission rehearsal. The Army, which is running the program, asked for $52.9 million in research and development funds for FY22 compared to a projected $48.6 million for FY22 in last year’s budget.
  • Unified Platform that will integrate and analyze data from offensive and defensive operations with partners. The Air Force, which is running the program, asked for $101.8 million in research and development funds for FY22 compared to a projected $106.5 million for FY22 in last year’s budget.

The Army-run Joint Common Access Platform, another key piece to the architecture that will allow DoD’s cyber operators to connect to their targets beyond friendly firewalls, has a classified budget item, Col. Kevin Finch, program manager for electronic warfare and cyber within Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, told C4ISRNET.

ManTech announced in late December it secured $265 million contract to support the program under a 42-month award.

Finch said the software acquisition approach for the Joint Common Access Platform is a “godsend” because “it allows us to have freedom to continue to iterate and provide additional capability over time to the system.” The system gets quarterly updates to add new capabilities.

The Defense Department also transferred various items for developing cyber equipment for Cyber Command from the Air Force budget to the Army Joint Common Access Platform program office. This includes $32.9 million for robust infrastructure development under a research and development effort called Distributed Cyber Warfare Operations.

For another program that includes several tools related to the development of the Joint Cyber Warfighting Architecture — called Cyber Operations Technology Development — the DoD requested $242.4 million compared to $256.9 million projected for FY22 from last year’s budget. Four items under this program include joint common services for IT infrastructure, joint access platforms, joint sensors and joint weapons.

The sensors request saw the biggest growth from last year — $60.4 million versus $46.2 million in FY21 — while Joint access platforms saw the biggest decline, $48 million compared to $72.7 million the year before.

Hunt forward

The Department of Defense this year asked for significantly less funds overall for what Cyber Command refers to as hunt forward operations, when teams deploy to other nations at their invitation to help them defend against malign cyber activity inside their networks.

Last year, the DoD requested $431.6 million for cooperation with allies and partners to conduct these operations. This year it only asked for $147.2 million.

The operations are meant to build partnerships in cyberspace and provide early warnings about malware strains to better prepare should adversaries or criminals use those strains against U.S. networks or assets.

Cyber Command conducted 11 such operations in nine different nations as part of the 2020 elections.

The Pentagon also would spend less on equipment for the effort, according to Air Force budget documents. The service asked for $9.5 million for hardware and software required to equip “hunt forward kits” for Cyber National Mission Force cyber protection teams. That is down from $11.6 million the previous year.

Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.

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