COLOGNE, Germany – Germany is one step closer to getting its own version of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, as officials here seek to bolster the country's cybersecurity posture.
The Cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel this week approved the new organization, to be headed jointly by the Defense and Interior ministries. The outfit is slated to get a budget of €200 million ($230 million) between 2019 and 2022. The new “Agency for Innovation in Cybersecurity” will eventually have 100 employees.
The German parliament, the Bundestag, will debate the proposal in the upcoming months. Once the funding is cleared, analysts will begin their work in earnest next year.
While the Pentagon's DARPA served as a model in creating the new organization, the American agency's funding and personnel commitment dwarfs that of new German effort. But the move is still a major step forward here because it shows a political commitment to cyberspace in the context of defense and security that officials said was previously lacking.
Notably, one of the explicit goals is to speed up the acquisition cycle for cybersecurity technology. That puts Germany in the same boat as many governments around the world, where officials have found themselves perennially lagging behind sophisticated attack schemes employed by hackers.
“The existing government processes pertaining to research are too slow,” said Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. “We have to be at least as quick and as well equipped as the perpetrators.”
The idea is for the new agency to inject venture capital into promising research ideas in the hope of nurturing those projects that will give the military and security forces a leg up. That approach, said von der Leyen, would require “courage” and a willingness by the public to absorb financial losses in those cases where ideas fail to bear fruit.
Critics here fear that the new agency carries the allure of focusing too much on offensive cyber operations at a time when the country’s defense posture needs patching.
Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.