Defense Department to Accelerate Cyber Weapons Development

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

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The Pentagon has provided Congress with a report outlining strategies to accelerate the development and deployment of cyber weapons, according to a Washington Post article.

The report is intended to determine the methodologies that need to be implemented in order to rapidly deploy mission-critical tactical cyber offensives by streamlining the traditional weapons development processes.

The fast-track strategy may involve protocols for the immediate funding of projects and the ability to forego some of the more time consuming design and testing processes that conventional weaponry are subject to.

“We can’t sit around and wait... We’ve got to take it outside the conventional system for these major, long-term weapon systems entirely," said the DoD's undersecretary of defense for acquisition, Frank Kendall.

The nature of cyber weapons is completely different than that of conventional types, requiring developers to understand specific details of a targeted system, supporting software, and other components in order to successfully produce a viable offensive measure.

“Cyberweapons are fundamentally different... You can make a general-purpose fighter plane and it will function more or less the same in the Pacific as in the Atlantic. The same is not true for going after a Russian cyber-target versus a Chinese target," said Herbert S. Lin of the National Academy of Sciences.

The development process, if unnecessarily prolonged, could render the weapon inoperative due to changes in the targeted networks through software upgrades or the application of patches to mitigate vulnerabilities critical to a cyber weapon's effectiveness.

The rapid deployment strategy comes less than one month after Department of Defense officials informed a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee on that the Pentagon is in the process of finalizing guidelines for military operations in the cyberspace theater.

National Security Agency chief and head of U.S. Cyber Command, General Keith Alexander, told members of the subcommittee that finalizing the strategy for rules of engagement in cyberspace are “at the top of the list of the cyberthings that we’re working on right now”.

Standardizing the military's rules of engagement where electronic and information-based offense and defense are concerned has been a priority for the DoD for several years, but the process has been stymied by the complicated nature of the digital realm of operations.

“This issue will be what set of authorities will we be given and what are the conditions under which we could conduct those authorities? (This) still has to be determined and ironed out within the administration,” Alexander testified.

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