- The Washington Times - Friday, November 13, 2015

The revised Department of Defense spending bill cleared by Congress this week will see to it that the U.S. Cyber Command is ready for a digital war as cyberattacks continue to strike American computer networks.

Buried deep within the 1,300-plus-page National Defense Authorization Act approved by lawmakers Tuesday is a provision calling for the Pentagon to ensure the U.S. is capable of avoiding a cyber Armageddon with any adversaries.

Specifically, Section 1646 of the bill singles out China, Iran, North Korea and Russia as the nations that the Pentagon’s cyber warriors should be best prepared to fend off.

“The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in consultation with the Principal Cyber Advisor, shall conduct a series of war games through the warfighting analysis division of the Force Structure, Resources, and Assessment Directorate to assess the strategy, assumptions, and capabilities of the United States Cyber Command to prevent large-scale cyber attacks, by foreign powers with cyber attack capabilities comparable to the capabilities that China, Iran, North Korea and Russia are expected to achieve in the years 2020 and 2025, from reaching United States targets,” the section states.

On the heels of recent cyberattacks that allowed hackers to gain unauthorized information from protected companies — including the high-profile breaches of the Office of Personnel Management and Sony Pictures Entertainment — Peter Singer, a strategist and senior fellow at the New America Foundation think tank, said the U.S. ought to be prepared for an online assault capable of crippling entire infrastructures.

“If there was a war with states like a China, Russia, Iran or North Korea, we’d learn ‘cyber war’ is far more than stealing Social Security numbers or email from gossipy Hollywood executives as too often it is used to describe, but the takedown of the modern military nervous system and Stuxnet-style digital weapons,” he told Nextgov, a website covering technology and government.

“Worrisome for the U.S. is that last year the Pentagon’s weapons tester found every single major weapons program had significant vulnerabilities to cyberattack,” Mr. Singer said.

The new NDAA aims to make sure the nation’s arsenal of weaponry can’t be compromised in an offensive cyberattack, either. Elsewhere in the spending bill, the secretary of defense is ordered to “complete an evaluation of the cyber vulnerabilities of each major weapon system of the Department of Defense by not later than December 31, 2019.”

The latest iteration of the 2016 NDAA is expected to be signed by President Obama as early as next week. Previously, the commander in chief vetoed an early attempting to pass the spending bill over restrictions that aimed to keep him from closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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