When the Senate passed the the National Defense Authorization Act in November of 2017, it was unclear whether President Donald Trump would sign off on the bill. There had already been significant differences between the House and Senate versions of the critical compromise defense policy bill before the final draft was passed by the House.
One month later, Trump made the bold move to espouse this landmark piece of legislation. The bill allocates just under $700 billion in national defense spending at a time when America needs a stronger military than ever before.
As attacks by the Islamic State continue to proliferate, we face an ever-more-pervasive threat. But it’s not just ISIS that we have to cope with. There is the far more vast problem of cyberwarfare. Now that the fiscal year has begun, we will begin to see the sundry areas in which the military budget will be spent.
Cyber crime damage costs are expected to hit $6 trillion by 2021 as more and more far flung cyber attacks proliferate across the globe. Last year, Russia-backed hackers were believed to be behind interruptions in Latvia’s mobile communications network. Syrian cybercriminals targeted activists opposed to the Syrian president’s regime with malware.
And the Wannacry ransomware attack perpetrated by North Korea proves beyond a reasonable doubt that cyber attacks are the future of modern warfare. Fortunately for Americans, the NDAA of 2018 is the future of the US military.
The bill includes a mandate for a blockchain cybersecurity research study, something that will mobilize the Armed Forces, better equipping them to deal with all contingencies that can arise in the field. The language of the bill is part of the wider MGT (Modernizing Government Technology Act) which revolves around improvement of the government’s IT and cybersecurity systems.
The bill establishes a Technology Modernization Fund that will shake the cobwebs off the government’s antiquated and outmoded information technology infrastructure. By rolling legislation from Rep. Will Hurd and Steny Hoyer into one, the bill promises to ascertain how these technologies are being harnessed by the enemy and how the US government can implement them.
As the bill puts it, the blockchain study will be “an assessment of efforts by foreign powers, extremist organizations, and criminal networks to utilize such technologies;…[and] an assessment of the use or planned use of such technologies by the Federal Government and critical infrastructure networks.”
The results of the study due to be delivered to Congress before July and will be prepared by the Department of Defense. The DoD is no stranger to the technology, having released their Cyber Strategy back in 2015.
As then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter explained at the time, “The United States relies on the Internet and the systems and data of cyberspace for a wide range of critical services. This reliance leaves all of us – individuals, militaries, businesses, schools, and government – vulnerable in the face of a real and dangerous cyber threat.”
Trump has been adamant about putting more money into the military since before he took office, vowing to rebuild it and eliminate the defense sequester. Obviously, he is a man of his word as he has granted the military “total authorization” to make combat decisions which has enabled the armed forces to be “more aggressive” in the War on Terror.
Even the liberals have been enthusiastic about the Trump administration’s decision to continue and intensify the US military mission in Afghanistan which includes cyber missions.
Some arms of the US military have already taken measures to train their officers in computer science. The Cyber Ops Squadron at Arkansas’ Little Rock Air Force Base offers the Cyber Skills Validation Course for both active duty and reserve forces. They have long been committed to cyber awareness and use state-of-the-art facilities to explore ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) and Command and Control in and through cyberspace.
As for the NDAA, it is likely we will see some of the bill’s alotted money going to improving cyber facilities, such as the 13 cyber units of the National Guard and US Army Cyber Command.
In December of 2017, it was reported that the National Guard was still having trouble filling cyber positions with National Guard Chief Gen. Joseph Lengyel telling Federal News Radio, “Our cyber pipeline is still constrained. Some of it is constrained by our ability to find people that can fill it, who can actually qualify to go to the slots.”
Perhaps, the Trump administration will see fit to sink some of the bill’s 2018 monies into payroll for the Cyber Mission Force whose agenda is to protect Defense Department networks, protect our homeland from cyber intrusions and assist in offensive missions.
No matter what they decide to do, it seems obvious that they’re on the right track with this exciting bill that will no doubt bolster military efforts here and abroad.