U.S. Cyber Defense Force to Hit 6,000 by 2016, Hagel says

The U.S. cyber defense force will grow to 6,000 people by 2016, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday in his first major cyber policy speech.

After his predecessor, Leon Panetta, repeatedly warned of the possibility of a "cyber Pearl Harbor" and extolled the importance of deterring threats against U.S. infrastructure, Hagel emphasized that the U.S. military's main priority is deescalation and restraint.

“That is DoD's overriding purpose in cyberspace as well," Hagel said at the retirement ceremony for Gen. Keith Alexander, the chief of the National Security Agency and head of the U.S. Cyber Command.

"Consistent with these efforts, DoD will maintain an approach of restraint to any cyber operations outside of U.S. government networks. We are urging other nations to do the same," Hagel said.

But Hagel announced that the size of the U.S. cyber defense workforce will grow to more than 6,000 by 2016, and a senior defense official said that the fiscal year 2015 cyber budget will exceed $5 billion.

The speech at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Md., comes just days before Hagel travels to China, the epicenter of many cyberattacks against the U.S. — even though the U.S. can rarely prove whether those attacks are state-sponsored or not.

Hagel also said that U.S. reliance on cyberspace "outpaces our cybersecurity," and noted that during the course of his brief speech, Defense Department "systems will have been scanned by adversaries around 50,000 times."

A senior defense official explained that those "scans" are the equivalent of someone rattling the doors and shaking the windows when trying to break into a house.

This was the first live broadcast from the NSA/CYBERCOM headquarters, a fact that the senior defense official said demonstrated an effort for greater openness on U.S. defense cyber activities.

Gen. Alexander was the longest-serving NSA director in the agency's history, and he was the first director of CYBERCOM, formed in 2010. Alexander will be replaced by Adm. Michael Rogers.