US weapon programs like the C-27 Joint�Cargo Aircraft face severe cuts while cyber-security recieves a major funding boost

Obama shifts military focus to cyber-security

President Barack Obama’s 2014 budget plan, sent to Congress yesterday, signals a shift in emphasis for the US’s military.

The plan proposes to cancel or cut several Pentagon weapons programs, but will increase spending to protect US computer networks from Internet-based attacks in a sign that the government aims to put more resources into the emerging global cyber arms race.

Obama's proposals for the 2014 fiscal year, which begins on October 1, calls for more military "hackers" to head off escalating cyber threats from China, Iran, Russia and other countries and would also bolster defences for government and private-sector computer networks.

Intelligence officials said last month that cyber-attacks and espionage have supplanted terrorism as the top security threat facing the United States, and military officials sounded the alarm as well.

"Lock your doors," Air Force General Robert Kehler told space and cyber industry executives at a conference in Colorado on Tuesday. "Someone from halfway around the world is trying to get into your network looking to steal what you are developing."

Obama's budget, released late yesterday, proposes to boost Defense Department spending on cyber efforts to $4.7bn, $800m more than current levels, even as it plans to cut the Pentagon's overall spending by $3.9bn.

The Pentagon said the spending would be used to beef up US defences against increasing cyber-attacks, as well as boosting its offensive capabilities, with plans in place to expand its Cyber Command, a team of military hackers conducting what it calls "reconnaissance, surveillance, development, maintenance and analysis."

The Pentagon also said it would expand efforts to protect its own computer networks and under the budget proposal, the Department of Homeland Security would spend $44m more on a government-wide information-sharing effort even as its overall budget would shrink by $615m, or 1.5 per cent.

The department also would fund more cyber-security research and help private businesses and local governments bolster their online defences, but much of the cybersecurity spending is contained in classified reaches of the government that do not make their budgets public, making quantifying the overall proposed increase sought by the president impossible.

"The budget includes increases and improvements to a full range of cyberspace activities," the Obama administration said about its classified activities.

Separately, the House Intelligence Committee passed a bill to remove legal barriers that have prevented the government and private companies from protecting their networks against foreign hackers, including tough provisions aimed at protecting privacy.

Representative Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the committee, on Monday said the modified bill had a better chance of winning support in the Senate this year after privacy concerns derailed similar legislation last year.

Congressman Jim Langevin, co-founder of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, said the new bill included measures aimed at ensuring private information was not unwittingly exposed during any information-sharing between industry and government.

The administration is making cyber-security a priority at a time when it is cutting back or holding the line on spending across wide swaths of the government, especially in the military where many conventional weapons programs are facing severe cuts in funding.

The budget includes a $208 million cut in the C-130 Hercules Avionics Modernization program, while the C-27 Joint Cargo Aircraft, built by Alenia, a unit of Italy's Finmeccanica SpA, will face a cut of $480 million after the Pentagon sought to cancel it in the last fiscal year.

The cruiser modernization program to modernize the US Navy's guided missile cruisers, being carried out by contractors including Britain's BAE Systems, is being squeezed for savings of $562m, while the Global Hawk Block 30 unmanned, high-altitude surveillance plane, built by Northrop Grumman Corp, are due for $324 million cut.

Other projects facing cancellation or major cuts in their budget include the Ground Combat Vehicle, the Army's program to replace the M2 Bradley fighting vehicles and Strkyer Brigade Combat Teams; the Joint Air to Ground Missile, being developed by Raytheon Co and Boeing; the Joint High Speed Vessel, being built by Australia's Austal.

The Light Attack and Armed Reconnaissance aircraft program will also face cuts, while the Precision Tracking Space System,  being designed by Northrop Grumman as the space-based component of a layered US missile defence, will be terminated "due to high technical risk and greater than anticipated cost," according to the Pentagon.

Sea-based X-band radar, the Space-based Surveillance System and the Standard Missile-3 Block IIB program all face cuts or restructuring.

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