| COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. May 19 U.S. military
experts on Monday said current acquisition rules hamper their
ability to respond quickly to a growing number of cyber attacks
against U.S. weapons and computer networks and new approaches
Kristina Harrington, director of the signals intelligence
directorate at the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), said
acquisition programs typically take about two years to initiate
and execute, but rapidly changing threats in the cyber domain
require a different approach.
"The current acquisition process is not fast enough to keep
up with the speed (of the threat)," Harrington said at a space
and cyber conference hosted by the Space Foundation. "Two years
after we started is too late in the cyber industry."
Harrington and other government and industry speakers
underscored their concerns about growing and increasingly
sophisticated attacks on U.S. computer networks and said the
Pentagon was working hard to beef up cybersecurity.
Their comments came the same day that the U.S. government
charged five Chinese military officers, accusing them of hacking
into American nuclear, metal and solar companies to steal trade
secrets, These are the first criminal hacking charges filed by
Washington against specific foreign individuals.
Harrington told reporters after the panel that the NRO,
which designs, builds and operates U.S. spy satellites for the
U.S. military and intelligence communities, was looking at using
umbrella contracts with a range of companies that would give it
more flexibility to order specific work as threats arose.
She said the agency was historically focused on buying,
fielding and operating the best satellites in the world, but the
ground networks used to operate them needed more attention
because they were increasingly complex and had become a growing
target of cyber attacks.
She said she understood that lawmakers need to carefully
oversee acquisition programs, but said rapid changes in the
cyber world meant the government needed more flexibility to
respond than the current acquisition system offered.
U.S. weapons programs are subject to many complex
regulations and oversight processes aimed at addressing the cost
overruns, schedule delays and other issues that have plagued
defense acquisition programs for decades.
Harrington and other officials argue that the cyber domain
is fundamentally different and requires different rules than
those applied to fighter jets, warships and missiles.
"We need to be looking at a different way of doing things,"
Harrington said during her panel discussion, adding that private
industry was increasingly driving change in the cyber realm.
William Marion, chief technology officer for Air Force Space
Command, said the Pentagon had undertaken a comprehensive review
of cybersecurity issues across the department and was beginning
to make changes, but current acquisition rules and oversight
still slowed its ability to respond.
Executives at smaller companies say the Pentagon's
bureaucracy also makes it difficult for them to bid for
cybersecurity contracts, which tend to be dominated by big firms
like Boeing Co, Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Matt Driskill)