If you've been baffled by just what the Defense Department is talking about when it says "cyber," get ready, because DOD is going to try to enlighten you.
One of the biggest frustrations for anyone dealing with the government and cyber (a word, that to many Americans under 40 is just a silly old term for something people did on naughty chatrooms in the mid ‘90s) is that right now the term encompasses everything from regular IT work, like updating software, to unleashing advanced cyber weapons like Stuxnet that are capable of causing real world damage. This confusion persists even as cyber-everything is set to receive more funding and see more involvement in everything from spy operations to combat.
So, as part of its fiscal year 2014 budget request, the Pentagon will parse cyber operations from traditional IT work -- a move aimed at reducing confusion as to just what types of DOD operations constitute cyber.
"In the upcoming FY14 budget, we are working to provide a more comprehensive funding profile for future cyber activities," a Pentagon spokesman told Killer Apps in an email. "While we consider these activities part of the overall IT budget, we intend to separately identify 'cyber' and 'non-cyber' spending within the IT budget. Such a breakdown will provide further clarity to the Congress and the American people about the Department of Defense's critical support to defending the nation from cyber attacks."
The spokesman went on to point out that cyber operations are only set to increase in importance and funding.
"One of the Department of Defense's highest priorities is increasing innovation and investment in the cyber domain," he wrote.
As we wrote yesterday, the nebulous definition of just what exactly constitutes cyber operations has confused everyone from the Air Force's top general to the Government Accountability Office. The current, broad definition of cyber is making it difficult for lawmakers and military planners to figure out how to allocate resources into cyber at a time when defense budgets are being slashed.
(On a side note: How many times can you use the word confusion in one article? Answer: A lot if you're writing about cyber.)
Several Air Force generals have pointed out recently that the vast majority of the service's "cyber" resources are currently tied up in mundane IT work. Air Force tech officials hopes to automate day-to-day network maintenance and operations so that the cyber troops can focus on high-end operations such as hunting for enemy hackers, conducting online spying, and developing cyber weapons.
John Reed reports on the frontiers of cyber war and the latest in military technology for Killer Apps.