Bipartisan bill would speed DOD's cyber warfare efforts

Bipartisan bill would speed DOD's cyber warfare efforts

A new Senate bill aims to empower the Defense Department’s cyber warfare efforts.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) this week introduced legislation that would speed the Pentagon’s process of acquiring electronic warfare technology by freeing up more funding sources of these tools.

“It is critical that the United States military dominates the offensive and defensive ends of electronic warfare,” said Kirk, a former Navy Reserve intelligence officer, in a statement. “This bill will give DoD and industry leaders the tools to quickly develop critical electronic warfare technology for the warfighter.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is signed on as a co-sponsor.

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“Red tape is standing in the way of our military having access to the technology it needs to lead in today’s complex and ever-evolving landscape,” she said.

The measure would also require the Pentagon to submit to Congress a strategic plan for developing the military’s cyber war capabilities.

Kirk and Gillibrand said the DOD’s technology acquisition process currently can take up to 10 years, leaving the military with outdated technology by the time the agency gives the stamp of approval.

The pair’s bill would classify electronic warfare programs as part of the Rapid Acquisition Authority program, which allows the Pentagon to waive certain acquisition rules to speed the process.

The legislation would also let any funds earmarked for electronic warfare to be used in developing and fielding electronic warfare capabilities, according to a summary of the bill.

The Pentagon has been dramatically ramping up its cyber capabilities over the past year to counter the rising threat from foreign hackers.

Digital adversaries in Russia and China have developed sophisticated hacking teams that can compete with those in the U.S., according to experts. And rogue nations such as North Korea, or terrorist groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, are quickly gaining ground, military officials warn.

The DOD in April issued a new cybersecurity strategy that overhauled the military’s approach to digital battle and included an unprecedented focus on offensive cyber weapons.  

Defense Secretary Ash Carter has also laid out a plan to fill out an anticipated 133 cyber teams — roughly 6,200 workers — by fiscal 2018.

Kirk and Gillibrand believe their bill should be part of this process.

“This legislation will help ensure our service men and women are less vulnerable to national security threats and have access to the most up-to-date electronic warfare technology available,” Gillibrand said.