Pentagon cyber activities could grab $120 billion

An aerial view of t, ... ]

An aerial view of t, ... ] Defense Department file photo

Funding shift could occur if lawmakers grant flexibility to apportion $1.2 trillion in cuts required under 2011 Budget Control Act.

One of the latest reports analyzing the potential ramifications of a deficit reduction deal predicts tens of billions of dollars in increased spending for military cybersecurity and cyber weaponry.

Under one scenario, cyber funding would grow at the expense of personnel accounts. Savings of $55 billion from Defense Department payrolls would go toward space, cyber and communications activities. Under another scenario, officials would shift funds away from legacy aircraft programs, while devoting more than $121 billion to the cyber category.

The figures are based on the possibility that Congress might allow the Pentagon flexibility to target reductions, rather than mandate across-the-board spending cuts, known as sequestration, prescribed under the 2011 Budget Control Act. Unless lawmakers negotiate a compromise, uniform sequestration decreases will hit all Pentagon and civilian accounts to the tune of $1.2 trillion. 

The scenarios were developed by seven teams of budget and military experts assembled by the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Their estimates reflect the Pentagon’s previously-announced strategic shift from funding ground forces in the Middle East to concentrating spending on automated arms and surveillance.

Each group “chose to protect investments in offensive and defensive cyber capabilities to preserve the integrity of U.S. networks and maintain the capability to degrade the battle networks of future adversaries,” the report states. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as of Oct. 11 was still assuring the public that the military is investing more than $3 billion annually in cybersecurity.

Information security programs have been viewed as a sanctuary away from austerity measures, ever since sequestration threats surfaced in 2011. It is widely believed that agencies governmentwide are rebranding some line items as cybersecurity programs to save them from the knife.

But some former federal officials have pointed out that cyber investments inadvertently could be deleted because they are embedded in initiatives that are slated for the chopping block. In other words, cyber funding that is not listed as a separate account could disappear.