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SPAWAR adjusts to new budget environment

Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) employs about 5,000 people in San Diego, but thanks to sequestration budget-tightening, that number won't rise anytime soon.

“A hiring freeze has been in effect since the early part of the calendar year,” said Rear Adm. Patrick Brady, commander of SPAWAR, which has a 9,500-person military and civilian workforce nationally.

Brady, who assumed command nearly three years ago, spoke at the San Diego Military Advisory Council’s monthly breakfast Wednesday inside the Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command on Harbor Drive.

The hiring freeze remains in effect until further notice, and only those positions determined to be absolutely mission-essential can be filled.

To support the requirements of the fleet, SPAWAR develops, buys, installs and sustains communication, computer and networked systems onboard Naval submarines, ships, aircraft and shore stations.

Furloughs, another ripple effect of sequestration, won't be as lengthy as once thought.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday that most of the department’s civilian employees will be required to take 11 furlough days beginning July 8, one per week, through Sept. 30. Sequester plans originally called for 22 unpaid days off.

Sequestration's original impact on ship maintenance is also not as severe. In San Diego, 12 ship-maintenance periods were originally cancelled, but eight have been restored. The Navy is working on restoring the last four this year.

The most visible impacts of the cuts will be to lengthen schedules and response times. Instead of responding in two days, for example, it may take two weeks.

San Diego will benefit from the nation's plan to rebalance to the Asia Pacific, where the day-to-day naval presence will increase by about 20 percent to 60 ships by 2020.

“As we go through this Pacific pivot, San Diego’s naval stock will be going up,” Brady said.

The importance of cybersecurity is also on the rise.

Two of SPAWAR’s primary customers, Fleet Cyber Command and 10th Fleet, recently compiled a short video to educate the fleet about the growing cyber threat and the Navy’s growth in the cyber domain.

“The U.S. Navy is at risk, right now at this very minute,” warned the booming voice in the video, aired at the breakfast. “Wave after wave of unwanted intrusions … can potentially cripple our forces with as much devastation as any bomb or missile.”

It's all occurring in cyberspace, where communication, intelligence gathering and command and control can be threatened.

The Navy stands ready to repel the threat, the video says, by providing cyber capabilities necessary for fighting superiority across the full spectrum of military operations.

“It may not be as sexy as some of the Navy Seal videos you see, but this [cyber] warfare and these warriors are just as important for our nation,” Brady said.

The nation shares some of the same cyberchallenges that individuals and businesses face, such as hacking, bad actors and a variety of software and hardware vulnerabilities.

“It’s a massively complex system with almost countless users,” he said. “As I look at this, I often wonder, are we in a cyber cold war?”

Cybersecurity company Mandiant identified one cyberespionage group in Shanghai that stole hundreds of terabytes of data — including technology blueprints, manufacturing processes, business plans and test results — from 141 organizations.

Recent examples include denial-of-service attacks in Estonia, interruptions of service in Georgia and the Stuxnet attack on Iran.

Continuing to study, train and develop sophisticated algorithms and reach into potential adversary networks is key, he noted.

“We need to continue to achieve and maintain information dominance. That requires a holistic approach,” he said.

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