How much does the military plan to spend on cybersecurity next year?
The answer depends on whom you ask and when.
In mid-February, the White House proposed spending $2.3 billion on cybersecurity at the Defense Department in the release of its 2012 budget request. Simultaneously, Air Force officials announced their cybersecurity request would be $4.6 billion. The Army and Defense Information Systems Agency referred inquiries about their proposed cyber spending to department-level officials. Navy officials said they could not provide a top-line budget figure, since funding that supports Navy cybersecurity activities is scattered across several line items, as well as multiple programs, organizations and commands.
On March 21, in response to a query from Nextgov, Pentagon officials said the original $2.3 billion figure covers all Defense components. On March 23, officials amended that response and provided a higher total — $3.2 billion — to reflect the cost of information assurance “program elements” at individual agencies and services, plus activities typically not defined as information assurance that are critical to the military’s overall cyber stance.
“When people can’t even agree about the most basic terminology, you know there is going to be a lot of confusion,” said Noah Shachtman, a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributing editor at Wired magazine. “The chances there aren’t billions of dollars in redundancies are slim to none and slim is out of town.”
The area surrounding “cybersecurity” funding is gray, given that procedures to protect computers against attack are constantly changing as technology advances, say some observers. Still, the various interpretations of cybersecurity spending translate into real-world financial and national security costs, budget and technology experts note.