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Inside the Ring
The Pentagon’s senior weapons-buying official said this week that a program for purchasing offensive and defensive military equipment for cyberwarfare is still being worked on.
Cyberwarfare gear is one area the Pentagon is not expected to cut as it trims $487 billion from spending in the next 10 years.
Frank Kendall, acting undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said after a speech Monday that his office is having trouble producing a report to Congress on how the Pentagon will buy cyberwarfare gear.
A recent draft report, required by a provision of the current defense law, was so watered down because of the staffing process that it had to be rewritten, he said.
“And to be honest, what had happened in the staffing process was that every interest group, if you will, had kind of gotten the thing to where it was so weakened that it really wasn’t going to have much teeth in it anymore,” he said. “So I pulled it back and I’m working on rewriting it.”
Mr. Kendall explained that buying and testing cyberwarfare equipment is not the same as purchasing other information technology.
“I’m separating that from the things that we use specifically to defend our networks, where the IT is, and the things that we might buy to attack other people, and then some of the things that are used for intel as well would go under [the program],” he said.
The problem, Mr. Kendall added, is that the cyberacquisition is relatively small in terms of dollars but is “terribly important.”
“They’re important to the survival of our networks,” he said. “They’re important to our ability to operate. They can be very important on the offensive side as well.”
The cyberwarfare acquisition system needs to move much faster than other programs, he said.
“The technologies move extremely quickly,” he said. “We have to react instantaneously to many of the threats. We can’t sit around and wait for a [Defense Acquisition Board] or a [Joint Requirements Oversight Council] for these things. So we got to take it outside the conventional system for the major long-term weapons system entirely.”
Mr. Kendall said Pentagon arms-buyers need to understand any gaps in capabilities. They also need to know what is being bought now and what will be purchased in the future.
Mr. Kendall would not estimate how much cyberespionage and data theft had cost defense acquisition.
“I’m not even going to pick a ballpark number,” he said.
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About the Author
Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
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