The Obama administration plans to create a new military command to coordinate the defense of Pentagon computer networks and improve U.S. offensive capabilities in cyberwarfare, according to current and former officials familiar with the plans.
The initiative will reshape the military's efforts to protect its networks from attacks by hackers, especially those from countries such as China and Russia. The new command will be unveiled within the next few weeks, Pentagon officials said.
The move comes amid growing evidence that sophisticated cyberspies are attacking the U.S. electric grid and key defense programs.
A page-one story in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday reported that hackers breached the Pentagon's biggest weapons program, the $300 billion Joint Strike Fighter, and stole data.
Lawmakers on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee wrote to the defense secretary Tuesday requesting a briefing on the matter.
Lockheed Martin Corp., the project's lead contractor, said in a statement Tuesday that it believed the article "was incorrect in its representation of successful cyber attacks" on the F-35 program.
"To our knowledge, there has never been any classified information breach," the statement said. The Journal story didn't say the stolen information was classified.
President Barack Obama, when he was a candidate for the White House, pledged to elevate cybersecurity as a national-security issue, equating it in significance with nuclear and biological weapons.
A White House team reviewing cybersecurity policy has completed its recommendations, including the creation of a top White House cyberpolicy official. Details of that and other proposals are still under debate. A final decision from the president is expected soon.
A draft of the White House review steps gingerly around the question of how to improve computer security in the private sector, especially key infrastructure such as telecommunications and the electricity grid.
The document stresses the importance of working with the private sector and civil-liberties groups to craft a solution, but doesn't call for a specific government role, according to a person familiar with the draft.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates plans to announce the creation of a new military "cyber command" after the rollout of the White House review, according to military officials familiar with the plan.