Can major R&D for cyber defense make a difference?

Attacks on government and private sector networks have compelled President Barack Obama to identify cybersecurity research as a priority in his fiscal 2013 budget proposal.

The Defense Department’s fiscal 2013 budget is $57 billion less than that requested for fiscal 2012. Some of the cuts will hit science and technology areas. However, the 2013 $613 billion budget does call for increases in a few areas that include cyber. This budget clearly reflects Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s mindset. Recently, he said the U.S. executive branch faces “hundreds of thousands of cyberattacks every day.” He went on to say that his fear is that the nation has “not taken all the necessary steps" to avert a cyberattack disaster.

One area of the overall cyber program receiving a fair amount of attention and budget is cyber readiness, which appears to be a priority in fiscal 2013 planning and budget. The cyber readiness program calls for departmentwide inspection of DOD's cyber defenses. DOD has set a goal that states by Sept. 30, 2013, it will achieve a passing score on a comprehensive cybersecurity inspection to reduce the risks associated with acts of cyber aggression. This inspection program looks at compliance with operational, technical and physical security standards and policies.

The number of cyberattacks on DOD and government networks is estimated at more than 400 million a year. These attacks, and the increasing attacks on the private sector, are what has driven President Barack Obama to identify cybersecurity basic research as a priority in his fiscal 2013 budget proposal. He has requested $140.8 billion in research and development for the coming year with potentially billions going to cyber. That is bigger than the 2011 gross domestic product of more than 125 countries. I was asked whether that budget is big enough given the number of cyber threats and actors, the increase in cyberattack sophistication and the vulnerability of our critical systems. I am not sure – only time will tell.

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