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Cyberwar moves up on Pentagon's priority list

| Sunday, April 21, 2013, 7:36 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The military is increasing its budget for cyber-warfare and expanding its offensive capabilities, including the ability to blind an enemy's radar or shut down its command systems in the event of war, according to two Defense officials.

In the 2014 Defense budget released last week, the money allocated for cyber-operations rose to $4.7 billion, up from $3.9 billion. Much of that money is going into the development of offensive capabilities, usually referred to as computer network attacks, according to budget documents.

Officials say these are capabilities — including targeting military computer networks — that a commander might need in a conflict and would be used only in accordance with the law of armed conflict.

The expansion is a recognition that cyber-war probably will be at least part of any conflict. In recent years, the Pentagon has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on building cyber-capabilities, an effort that has gained urgency as China, Russia, North Korea and other nations have been using cyberspace to attack adversaries or steal secrets.

“When you look at the strategic landscape from our perspective, it's getting worse,” Army Gen. Keith Alexander, the head of Cyber Command, testified recently to Congress.

U.S. officials say they have a range of sophisticated cyber-attack capabilities should they be needed by commanders in a conflict. The skills are perishable and require constant honing, the Defense officials said.

“From everything I'm told, we're as good as anybody and probably better,” said Martin Libicki, a cyber-warfare analyst at Rand.

The Air Force, for example, has been developing systems designed for the “exfiltration of information while operating within adversary information systems,” according to budget documents. The Air Force declined to release details on the program, saying it was classified.

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