Which cyber priorities didn’t appear in the Pentagon’s budget

The head of U.S. Cyber Command told Congress in a Feb. 20 letter that the budget request for fiscal year 2021 did not include $106 million that his organization could still use, mostly as a way to better defend the Pentagon’s networks.

In a letter sent to Congress and obtained by Fifth Domain, Gen. Paul Nakasone outlined the command’s unfunded priorities list which includes $52.2 million for securing the Department of Defense Information Network (DoDIN).

This funding, spread between Cyber Command and Joint Force Headquarters-DoDIN, a subordinate headquarters responsible for global network defense, would go toward improving the Pentagon’s ability to secure, operate and defend the DoDIN. The money would support improvements in situational understanding, monitoring, analytics, training and inspections to enhance cyber resiliency and readiness, the documents state.

DoD cyber defense officials have said the network gets hit with millions of attempted intrusions per day. On the same day the letter was dated, the Defense Information Systems Agency acknowledged more than 200,000 users were part of a breach from summer 2019.

A system hosted by the Defense Information Systems Agency was breached last summer.
How many users were affected by the DISA breach?

Affected users are receiving letters from the Defense Information Systems Agency notifying them if their personally identifiable information might have been compromised.

Meanwhile, the letter also said Cyber Command could use $13.8 million for so-called “hunt forward” operations and $40 million for certain offensive cyber capabilities.

Hunt forward teams deploy to other nations to help them defend against malign cyber activity inside their networks. DoD officials believe these missions are critical to defending the U.S. homeland as they provide unique insights into activities of adversaries, which may be planning similar operations against U.S. networks.

The Pentagon provided funding for equipment for U.S. Cyber Command's so-called hunt forward teams that deploy to other nations and help defend their networks. (Maj. Robert Felicio/Army National Guard)
How ‘hunt forward’ teams can help defend networks

The Department of Defense wants to spend $11.6 million in fiscal year 2021 to buy systems that would help cyber operators perform “hunt forward” missions, where teams deploy to other countries to stop malicious cyber activity.

The $40 million would go toward equipping members of the Cyber National Mission Force to fight bad actors. The Cyber National Mission Force is Cyber Command’s group of high end cyber warriors focused on defending the homeland from cyber threats from specific adversaries.

Finally, Nakasone requested money — split between Cyber Command and the Army — for the Cyber National Mission Force to have increased capabilities to access, operate, support and train to meet increased operational demands, the letter reads.

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