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Feb. 9, 2012
Notes from the Pentagon

The Pentagon’s senior weapons-buying official said this week that a program for purchasing offensive and defensive military equipment for cyberwarfare is still being worked on.

Cyberwarfare gear is one area the Pentagon is not expected to cut as it trims $487 billion from spending in the next 10 years.

Frank Kendall, acting undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said after a speech Monday that his office is having trouble producing a report to Congress on how the Pentagon will buy cyberwarfare gear.

A recent draft report, required by a provision of the current defense law, was so watered down because of the staffing process that it had to be rewritten, he said.

“And to be honest, what had happened in the staffing process was that every interest group, if you will, had kind of gotten the thing to where it was so weakened that it really wasn’t going to have much teeth in it anymore,” he said. “So I pulled it back and I’m working on rewriting it.”

Mr. Kendall explained that buying and testing cyberwarfare equipment is not the same as purchasing other information technology.

“I’m separating that from the things that we use specifically to defend our networks, where the IT is, and the things that we might buy to attack other people, and then some of the things that are used for intel as well would go under [the program],” he said.

The problem, Mr. Kendall added, is that the cyberacquisition is relatively small in terms of dollars but is “terribly important.”

“They’re important to the survival of our networks,” he said. “They’re important to our ability to operate. They can be very important on the offensive side as well.”

The cyberwarfare acquisition system needs to move much faster than other programs, he said.

“The technologies move extremely quickly,” he said. “We have to react instantaneously to many of the threats. We can’t sit around and wait for a [Defense Acquisition Board] or a [Joint Requirements Oversight Council] for these things. So we got to take it outside the conventional system for the major long-term weapons system entirely.”

Mr. Kendall said Pentagon arms-buyers need to understand any gaps in capabilities. They also need to know what is being bought now and what will be purchased in the future.

Mr. Kendall would not estimate how much cyberespionage and data theft had cost defense acquisition.

“I’m not even going to pick a ballpark number,” he said.

He added that cyberattacks and cyberespionage remain a “very serious problem” for both government and private industry.

Financial analyst Howard Rubel of Jefferies & Co. in New York told The Washington Post last month the Pentagon is spending between $10 billion and $11 billion on cybersecurity, and it could be one area where money is added in the next budget.

Computer attacks are becoming a daily occurrence, and an online newsletter says the threat is getting worse. reported Jan. 24 on an unusual case of a Frankenstein hybrid - a computer virus accidentally infecting a worm, potentially increasing its lethality to computers and networks.

According to the newsletter, the malicious software in question morphed into a different threat than was intended by its human creators.

“Ten years ago, there was a clear-cut distinction between Trojans, viruses and worms,” the report said. “They all had their own features specific to one family of malware only. As more people connected to the internet, cyber-criminals started mixing ingredients to maximize impact. … Trojans with worm capabilities or viruses with Trojan features, and so on.”

But a new practice emerged recently. The new digital threat: viruses that infect executable files happen to hit a system already infected with a worm - a malicious executable file - that then carries the virus with it to other computers and networks.

“Although this happens unintentionally, the combined features from both pieces of malware will inflict a lot more damage than the creators of either piece of malware intended,” according to the report, based on the work of the software firm Bitdefender.

Bitdefender found 40,000 examples of piggybacking malware in a pool of 10 million files. One was identified as the Virtob virus combining with the Rimecud worm.

Military cybertechnology officials say the virus-worm combination is likely to be used in military-grade cyberwarfare attacks in the future.

China tried convince former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that he should not visit Beijing’s rival Taiwan last year.

According to sources close to the former Pentagon chief, a Chinese Embassy political officer called Mr. Rumsfeld’s office before the October visit to urge him not to go.

Mr. Rumsfeld ignored the request. During his visit, he said Taiwan needed more U.S. arms in response to China’s continued large-scale military buildup.

In a speech Oct. 11 in Taiwan, Mr. Rumsfeld said: “As Taiwan identified further requirements and those needs are assessed as legitimate and reasonable in light of China’s military posture, Taiwan has the responsibility to continue to make known its requests for responsible consideration.

“In turn, the United States has the responsibility to give such requests fair, prompt and reasonable attention. Taiwan deserves no less from a fellow democracy.”

The Obama administration around that time offered to upgrade Taiwan’s fleet of U.S.-made F-16s but declined the island nation’s request for newer F-16s.

The attempt to dissuade Mr. Rumsfeld from visiting Taiwan is part of China’s efforts to isolate Taiwan from the United States.

China’s communist government uses its visa system in trying to control what Americans may say about China. Anyone who is regarded as a critic of Beijing is routinely denied entry to China.

The policy is mainly targeted at U.S. specialists on China who need access to China as part of their work.

Beijing’s message: Say nice things and ignore threatening things and you can visit China. Otherwise, forget about it.

Mr. Rumsfeld now heads the Rumsfeld Foundation, a nonprofit group that supports military charities and rewards public service.

He donated the $524,000 he made from sales of his memoir, “Known and Unknown,” to military charities late last year, according to the foundation’s latest report.

The foundation also brings professionals from Central Asia to the U.S. for six-week fellowships. The latest group of Central Asian fellows included people from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Mr. Rumsfeld’s book reached No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list, prompting the former secretary to remark, “I suspect that bothered some of those folks.”

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