The Defense Department continues to spend a great deal of time, attention and funds on cyber.

On the offensive side, Cyber Command is currently engaged in an active campaign against the Islamic State group in support of the global anti-ISIS coalition Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve.

The cyber front, dubbed Joint Task Force-Ares, seeks to disrupt ISIS's command and control and communication.

According to budget documents released this week, the Air Force notes that in FY18, $5.4 million of overseas contingency operations funds will be spent toward JTF-Ares. In another Air Force line item, base budget and OCO funds totaling $80 million will be spent on cyber tools.

The OCO dollars will go solely toward JTF-A while base funds will provide a wider array of services. They include:

  • Development of deployed exploitation framework for Cyber Command.
  • Execution of a spiral development process for cyberspace operations basic tools to provide operational agility during cyber mission force effects operations.
  • Continued tool repository and signature management study on each spiral of delivered tools that enables tool measurement and repository as well as a means to manipulate tool code to minimize risk of discovery.

Under a separateline item, the Air Force will spend $35 million base budget, $4 million OCO for a total of $39 million for offensive cyberspace operations.

The Army, for its part, under a research, development test and evaluation line will spend $7 million in FY18 on a line item titled "Offensive Information Operations Technologies."

The program "designs, codes and evaluates cyber architectures, software, tools and techniques that identify and capture data traversing targeted networks for the purpose of computer network operations (CNO) or otherwise countering adversary communications. Cyber capabilities include detection, identification, exploitation, direction finding (DF), geolocation, and denial of service," according to Army budget documents.

A new platform

Cyber warriors, in order to carry out their mission successfully, need a platform, an interface, a toolset and an infrastructure, just like warfighters in the more traditional physical domains. As discussions continue to surround the inevitable split of NSA and CYBERCOM – which are currently collocated – an independent CYBERCOM will need its own infrastructure to conduct warfighting missions separate from NSA, which is an intelligence collection, combatant command support agency.

Cyber Command is currently undertaking an effort to build its own platform, called the military cyber operations platform, or MCOP. Related, is the development of the so-called Unified Platform, described as enabling the cyber mission force to conduct full-spectrum cyberspace operations in support of national requirements, which the Air Force is working on and will serve as the back end of MCOP.

The Air Force provided in their research, development, test and evaluation budget that it will spend $82 million in FY18 on "common services."

As part of this line item, the FY18 base spend will "establish and evolve the Military Cyberspace Operations Platform (MCOP) to enable combined arms, offensive and defensive operations … continue development and employment for a series of operational prototypes under the Unified Platform that reduces acquisition risk, responds to operational imperatives, and ultimately support full-spectrum cyberspace operations for the Cyber Mission Forces."

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

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