By David Alexander
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon is establishing a fast-track acquisition process that would enable it to develop new cyber warfare capabilities within days or months if urgently needed, the Defense Department said in a report to Congress.
The process, which would be overseen by a new senior-level Cyber Investment Management Board, aims to streamline the sluggish traditional defense acquisition process to meet the rapid pace of events in cyberspace, the 16-page report said.
Congress, in defense legislation enacted last year, directed the Pentagon to develop a strategy that would enable it to speedily acquire cyber warfare tools, applications and other capabilities. The Pentagon sent a report to Congress late last month outlining the strategy.
The report, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters on Thursday, said the Pentagon's acquisition process for cyber warfare capabilities will be divided into two paths - one rapid and one deliberate - that would be used depending on urgency.
"The framework allows for alternative acquisition processes to be tailored to the complexity, cost, urgency of need and fielding timeline associated with developing the cyber warfare capability being developed," the report said.
"Programs with higher risk and longer fielding times, and therefore greater cost and complexity, will be managed with greater oversight and more centralized approvals," it said.
Under the process, cyber needs could be identified and put forward by many different organizations within the department.
U.S. Cyber Command, the combatant command set up nearly two years ago to defend military networks and carry out offensive cyber operations if ordered, would validate the needs. Teams at Cyber Command would decide which acquisition track to follow.
The rapid approach would generally be used "in response to urgent, mission-critical needs in support of current operations or emerging threats," the report said.
It would take advantage of previously developed and acquired capabilities, or nearly mature capabilities under development by industry, it said.
To meet short operational timelines, some traditional acquisition requirements could be postponed or eliminated, like planning documents or certain testing activity, the report said.
The deliberate process would include "more time for acquisition planning, consideration and analysis of options," but it would still be speedier than the timeline for most military weapons purchase, the report said.
The Pentagon will establish storage spaces for holding cyber warfare tools and applications, sites that could be used as platforms for collaboration. Cyber Command would be required to maintain a registry of cyber warfare tools.
The Cyber Investment Management Board is being established to oversee the process and coordinate investments in cyber warfare capabilities across the Defense Department, the report said.
The new board is needed in part because the cost of most cyber warfare tools is less than the threshold that would require oversight by other Pentagon processes, like the Major Defense Acquisition Program.
The Cyber Investment Management Board would be jointly chaired by Frank Kendall, acting undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics; James Miller, acting undersecretary of Defense for Policy; and Admiral James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The report said some aspects of the new process are already in place, but many of them, including establishment of the oversight board, would be rolled out over the next six months.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)