From: The Foundry (Heritage Foundation)

Sarah Friesen

The Pentagon has approved a 500 percent personnel increase for Cyber Command—which protects the Pentagon’s information networks and engages in cyberspace operations—according to The Washington Post. In a world where cyber is becoming an increasingly important realm, few would disagree with the U.S. government’s desire for increased cyber capabilities. However, with the defense budget already cut multiple times and the threat of sequestration still looming, where is the funding for this expansion?

The Pentagon cited an incident that occurred last year in Saudi Arabia as a motivator for the expansion of Cyber Command. A computer virus infected over 30,000 computers at Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s largest oil company. Naturally, the U.S. government would like to avoid being hit by a similar attack. Given that the U.S. is the target of ever-changing cyber attacks from all sides, especially China and Russia, the Department of Defense (DOD) is wise to seek additional cyber capabilities.

To keep up with the continually evolving cyber realm, Cyber Command plans to expand from 900 employees to 4,900. Personnel will then be divided into three new “forces”: national mission forces, combat mission forces, and cyber protection forces. These forces will allow Cyber Command to focus both on defensive cybersecurity and the increasingly tactical role that cyber plays.

Expanding Cyber Command so drastically, however, will require significant funding. If Congress does not act, sequestration will soon begin the process of gutting defense spending. Over the next 10 years, sequestration is on track to cut almost $500 billion from defense spending. Even if all of these cuts are avoided, that may not be enough to make a difference; the defense budget has already been cut several times in the past few years making any large expansion at the DOD extremely difficult.

Where does the DOD expect to find the money to hire 4,000 new Cyber Command employees? Those that already are cyber experts must be paid enough to be enticed away from their current positions. And if the DOD hires less experienced employees, the cost of training all those people will be significant.

The Pentagon’s intentions are good; the U.S. needs strong cyber capabilities on all fronts. This expansion is an important step to attaining that goal. However, insufficient resources may prevent these plans from being carried out. For Cyber Command to expand successfully, Congress will have to provide the Pentagon with the budget it needs.

Sarah Friesen is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation.