Defense contractors eye cybersecurity bonanza

Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, and others are getting ready for an expected boom in federal outlays to protect government computer networks.

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Jon Skillings is an editorial director at CNET, where he's worked since 2000. A born browser of dictionaries, he honed his language skills as a US Army linguist (Polish and German) before diving into editing for tech publications -- including at PC Week and the IDG News Service -- back when the web was just getting under way, and even a little before. For CNET, he's written on topics from GPS, AI and 5G to James Bond, aircraft, astronauts, brass instruments and music streaming services.
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Jon Skillings
2 min read

The industry side of the military industrial complex is on the scent of the federal government's cybersecurity dollars.

Bloomberg has a year-end rundown on the efforts of the big defense contractors to tap into a market that could swell to $11 billion by 2013. Boeing and Lockheed, for instance, both set up new cyberdefense business units in the last six months, the news agency says, while Raytheon in the last 18 months has acquired a trio of network security providers and is looking to boost the number of its certified security engineers by 50 percent in 2009.

"The whole area of cyber is probably one of the faster-growing areas" of the U.S. budget, Lockheed executive Linda Gooden told Bloomberg.

Whether that is money well spent, however, is a separate question, as CNET News' Declan McCullagh pointed out recently in a look at the efforts of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Formed in 2002, the DHS has always had a stated mission of combating cyberterrorism.

More than six years later, and after spending more than $400 million on cybersecurity, DHS still has not accomplished that stated goal....

Along the way, DHS was regularly receiving poor grades--including an F--on computer security report cards released by a congressional oversight committee.

In fiscal 2008 alone, the federal government spent $115 million on the department's National Cybersecurity Division.

And that, of course, is just a drop in the bucket of Washington's monetary outpouring. Altogether this year, the U.S. government is expected to spend $7.4 billion to secure military, intelligence, and other agency computer networks, Bloomberg reported, citing market researcher Input.

Wired's Threat Level blog says that the outlays -- and defense contractors' need to acquire expertise --

will only be good news for computer security firms that have been struggling to stay afloat the last few years when the government and private sector showed little interest in spending money to secure computer networks.

In December, a commission established by the Center for Strategic and International Studies urged that President-elect Barack Obama create a National Office for Cyberspace. "America's failure to protect cyberspace is one of the most urgent national security problems facing the new administration that will take office in January 2009," the cybersecurity policy report says. "It is a battle we are losing."

Over the summer, when he was still a candidate, Obama said he would make national cybersecurity policy and leadership a top priority.