Pentagon's cyber-war capabilities are falling short, official says

The Pentagon is nowhere near satisfied with its ability to wage a cyber-war against China and other potential enemies around the world, a top Pentagon offiicial said Thursday. 

Military officials need to do more to bolster the U.S. military's ability to attack foreign networks and defend their own systems from attack, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said.

Carter said Congress is doing its part by pushing legislation "of different flavors" on Capitol Hill.

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But despite that recent focus, cyberwarfare is still an area "we have undervalued and understressed and in some cases, have fallen behind," he said during a speech in Arlington, Va. "We need to do something [more] to get us in the game."

A report released Thursday by the congressionally mandated U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission claims Beijing is pulling ahead of the United States in its ability to conduct a cyber-war.

The Chinese military has conducted multiple exercises focusing on “joint information offensive and defensive operations” geared toward taking out communications command-and-control systems, according to the commission's findings, reported by The Washington Post.

These operations would likely be used to target American military transportation and logistics networks. That could cripple the ability of U.S. forces to respond to an attack, the report claims.

“Chinese capabilities in computer network operations have advanced sufficiently to pose genuine risk to U.S. military operations in the event of a conflict,” the report added. That risk will likely increase as the Pentagon begins to shift its focus from the Middle East to the Pacific.

Carter did not comment directly on the report's findings, but said Washington and Beijing "have a lot of productive things" going on militarily and economically.