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Budgetary cost-cutting realigns military for cyberwar

US Budget 2014.jpg

President Barack Obama has released a $3.77 trillion, 2,000-page spending plan that cuts some cutting edge military technology projects in favor of a fifth domain for battle: cyber.

The White House on Wednesday proposed shrinking the portion of the budget spent on the Department of Defense to $526.6 billion in discretionary funding -- a decrease of $3.9 billion, or 0.7 percent, below the 2012 level.

To enact those decreases, the Pentagon wants to cancel the Missile Defense Agency's Precision Tracking Space System, which is intended to intercept ballistic missiles, "due to high technical risk and greater than anticipated cost." It would also cancel the Air Force's Expeditionary Combat Support System, for similar reasons, according to a report on Military.com.

The budget also cuts into the popular and controversial drone program, according to Wired magazine.

“The workhorse Global Hawk unarmed spy drone? The Air Force isn’t buying any more and it’s cutting research cash for the Global Hawk by $101.9 million,” wrote Spencer Ackerman.

'There’s a significant pull to increase the number of forces trained to work in the cyber domain.'

- Michael A. Brown, former director of cybersecurity coordination for the DHS

Michael A. Brown, the former director of cybersecurity coordination for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and current vice president and general manager for RSA, told FoxNews.com that budgetary issues are a serious concern for today’s military. The armed forces are making strides to emphasize cyber operations on the defense side, he said, but the U.S. military needs to do more to operate in the 21st century field of battle.

In a nutshell, the armed services are shedding plans for some physical weapons to more actively plan for cyberwar.

“There’s a significant focus on the Defense Department to have the right levels to respond to whatever happens out there,” he told FoxNews.com.

“Look at today’s new environment … that comes with a cost. And you’ve got to have the infrastructure to test and determine how the cybersystems work. In the military, there’s a significant pull to increase the number of forces trained to work in the cyber domain.”

The budget seeks to address that, increasing funding for the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative Five (CNCI-5), which “seeks to connect cybersecurity centers and other cybersecurity analytics electronically and in real time.” It also “includes increases and improvements to a full range of cyberspace activities.”

The cyberthreat from foreign countries is a real one, said Anup Ghosh, founder and CEO of security firm Invincea.

“Foreign countries are actively compromising machines on US Government networks and major US companies in the technology, manufacturing, healthcare, energy, financial services, and defense sectors. They are seeking proprietary information, designs, plans, code and other intellectual property, mergers and acquisition documents, foreign policy plans for competitive edge,” he told FoxNews.com.

The military budget does include a substantial chunk for military technology, of course. The current budget provides $67.5 billion for DOD research, development, test and evaluation activities. It cites a new ballistic missile submarine replacement, research into hypersonic vehicles, and an increase of 1.8 percent to the budget of DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is essentially the military’s skunkworks.

It also shaves $2 billion off the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle Program by delaying it, not by canceling it. It would also delay the Standard Missile-3 Block IIB program.

Many high-tech weapons are likely to continue uninterrupted. On Monday, the Navy announced the recent successful test of a high-tech laser gun -- a disruptive, cutting-edge weapon capable of obliterating small boats and unmanned aerial vehicles with a blast of infrared energy.

Navy officials said that in early 2014, a prototype of the gun will be mounted to the fantail of the USS Ponce and sent to the Middle East for real-world experience.

One of its major advantages, the Navy said, is its relatively low cost to operate.

"Its weapon round costs about $1 to shoot," said Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, chief of Naval Research.

Jeremy A. Kaplan is Science and Technology editor at FoxNews.com, where he heads up coverage of gadgets, the online world, space travel, nature, the environment, and more. Prior to joining Fox, he was executive editor of PC Magazine, co-host of the Fastest Geek competition, and a founding editor of GoodCleanTech.