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New Defense Budget Aims To Improve Cybersecurity

$633 billion package requires the Department of Defense to adopt next-generation cyber defenses and take new steps in secure software development.

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Military Drones Present And Future: Visual Tour
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Cybersecurity and other information technologies play strong roles in the newly signed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2013, emphasizing the military's increasing reliance on IT.

The $633 billion package requires the Department of Defense to adopt next-generation cyber defenses and regularly report to Congress about its cyber efforts; includes guidelines on reporting cyber intrusions; and outlines steps that the military must take in software development and software licensing.

The NDAA does not take into account pending possible across-the-board cuts of DOD funds that will begin March 27 and reduce defense spending by hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 10 years if Congress fails to act by March 1.

[ To learn more about the government's cybersecurity efforts, read Congress Kills Cybersecurity Bill, White House Action Expected. ]

Key among the NDAA's tech guidelines are provisions dealing with cybersecurity and cyberwar. For example, the law instructs the DOD to "develop a strategy to acquire next-generation host-based cyber-security tools and capabilities" that go beyond current anti-malware and signature-based threat detection and instead can address "new or rapidly morphing threats."

These new technologies, the law says, must be installed in an open architecture that allows for multiple cybersecurity tools -- such as insider threat detection and continuous monitoring and configuration management -- to be added and integrated.

Other cyber provisions overhaul the software development process within the DOD, requiring the military to develop secure software development policy that does three things: Requires the use of static code analysis such as that performed by Veracode or a number of other code checking tools; prioritizes vulnerabilities based on risk; and ensures that secure software development is dealt with during the contracting phase of software development projects.

The DOD also must report to Congress quarterly on all the offensive and "significant" defensive military operations it carried out in cyberspace in the previous quarter. The NDAA notes that Congress expects to be briefed more widely on the activities of Cyber Command. Finally, under the law, contractors will be required to report successful penetrations to DOD.

Other broad IT requirements include DOD-wide IT initiatives. One such requirement could have a significant impact on how the DOD spends money on software by requiring an inventory of DOD software licenses and the development of a plan to assess how the military can "achieve the greatest possible economies of scale and cost savings in the procurement, use, and optimization of" those licenses.

The law requires the DOD to develop and submit to Congress a plan for a more consolidated IT infrastructure within the DOD known as the Joint Information Environment that will include milestones and metrics. It also requires the DOD CIO to study big data tools and submit a report on such tools to Congress.

The NDAA includes tech requirements for individual military services as well. For example, it requires the Army to review the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS) -- a key operational IT system that deals largely with tactical and intelligence information -- and to issue plans for the system.

As for other services, the law will allow more open bidding on the Air Force's Network-Centric Solutions 2 (NETCENTS-2) acquisition vehicle. NETCENTS-2 was supposed to simplify big Air Force IT buys, but has been held up by vendor protests of contract awards.

Federal agencies must increase server utilization and energy efficiency as they squeeze more computer processing into fewer data centers. The new Data Center Optimization issue of InformationWeek Government explores how the Army, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and others are doing that. (Free registration required.)

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