Congress' mandate to the Pentagon to elevate U.S. Cyber Command from a sub-unified combatant command to a full unified combatant command is becoming a reality.
In fact, Adm. Michael Rogers, the commander of CYBERCOM, testified in front of a House Armed Services subcommittee on May 23 that he has asked for more money from last year in part due to the elevation.
"To execute our missions, I requested a budget of approximately $647 million for fiscal year '18, which is nearly a 16 percent increase from fiscal year '17 due to additional funding for Cyber Command's elevation per the fiscal year '17 [National Defense Authorization Act], building out cyber mission force and cyber-specific capabilities and tools and [Joint Task Force] Ares support in the fight against ISIS," he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.
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The benefit of elevating: in one word, speed. "I believe that elevation plugs us more directly into the primary decision-making processes within the department, which is really optimized for combatant commanders. It also makes us faster because now I've got one less layer I have to work through," according to Rogers, who also runs the National Security Agency.
"So one of my concerns has been we talk about the importance of cyber — and I acknowledge there are other priorities in the department — and yet for some, not all, but for some of our processes, the cyber expertise is not embedded in the current structure because you put it one level below," he said.
Defense Department budget documents released this week point out that dollars will go to "reforming how the department does business," which specifically cited elevating CYBERCOM as to "strengthen cyber space as a warfighter domain."
Congress also granted CYBERCOM limited acquisition authority last year; however, Rogers said this has not been used yet.
"The Command generally lacks NSA’s authorities in acquiring the tools for such initiatives, but Congress recently authorized USCYBERCOM acquisition authority for up to $75 million each year through the end of FY2021 to rapidly deliver acquisition solutions for ‘cyber operations-peculiar’ capabilities," he offered in written testimony.
The authority has not been used yet because, as Rogers explained, there are still specific technical and oversight mechanisms that must be in place. He said the command has been working with private industry, especially in Silicon Valley, and will soon begin purchasing, likely by the summer. The contracts he’s looking to move on are in the way of capabilities for cyber protection teams and defense.
The heads of all the service cyber commands also testified before Congress on May 23, the same day the federal budget rolled out. The services stressed that their fiscal 2018 budgets will continue to fund the development of the cyber mission force that feeds into CYBERCOM — and is slated to reach full operational capability in 2018 — while funding a bevy of other initiatives.
According to Army budget documents, the service requested $53.436 million for FY18 defensive cyber operations for enterprise infrastructure base procurement that will support purchases related to equipment needs, engineering, integration, configuration management, testing, training, accreditation, and fielding of defensive cyberspace infrastructure and capabilities.
The Navy slated $2.6 billion for cyber and C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) equipment upgrades.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.