| COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., April 8
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., April 8 The U.S. Air
Force has designated six cyber tools as weapons, which should
help the programs compete for increasingly scarce dollars in the
Pentagon budget, an Air Force official said on Monday.
Lieutenant General John Hyten, vice commander of Air Force
Space Command, which oversees satellite and cyberspace
operation, said the new designations would help normalize
military cyber operations as the U.S. military works to keep up
with rapidly changing threats in the newest theater of war.
"This means that the game-changing capability that cyber is
is going to get more attention and the recognition that it
deserves," Hyten told a cyber conference held in conjunction
with the National Space Syposium in Colorado Springs.
Hyten's remarks came a month after U.S. intelligence
officials warned that cyber attacks have supplanted terrorism as
the top threat to the country. Spending on cyber
security programs has gone up in recent years, but may face
pressure given mandatory across-the-board cuts to the Pentagon's
planned spending on military equipment, programs and staff.
Hyten said the recent decision by Air Force Chief of Staff
General Mark Welsh to designate certain cyber tools as weapons
would help ensure funding.
"It's very, very hard to compete for resources ... You have
to be able to make that case," he said.
Hyten said the Air Force is also working to better integrate
cyber capabilities with other weapons.
He gave no details on the new cyber weapons, but the
Pentagon has become more open over the past year about its work
to develop offensive cyber capabilities in the face of
escalating cyber attacks by China, Russia, Iran and others.
The United States and Israel are widely believed to have
developed the Stuxnet computer virus that was used to attack an
Iranian uranium enrichment facility, the first publicly known
example of a virus being used to attack industrial machinery.
Hyten said the Air Force planned to expand its cyber
workforce of about 6,000 by 1,200 people, including 900 military
He said it took the Air Force decades to explain the central
importance of space-based assets for warfare, but did not have
time to wait with cybersecurity.
"We have to do this quickly. We cannot wait. If we just let
decades go by, the threat will pass us screaming by," he said.
Hyten said the Air Force was trying to leverage investment
in cybersecurity already being made by private industry, but
still had work ahead to improve its interface with the companies
that operate the largest computer servers, and any agreements
would have to benefit both sides.
"We have to bring resources to the table," he said. "They
don't stay in business by doing things for free."
(Editing by Doina Chiacu)