The Associated Press reports that the Pentagon will triple its cyber security staff over the next few years in an effort to fend off growing online attacks. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the news during a speech on Friday for the retirement of General Keith Alexander from his position as head of the NSA and Cyber Command.
“The Department of Defense is on its way to building an elite, modern cyber force,” Hagel said. “This force is enhancing our ability to deter aggression in cyberspace, deny adversaries their objectives, and defend the nation from cyber attacks that threaten our national security.”
The Pentagon has reportedly already started speeding up its recruiting efforts, offering jobs to both civilians and members of the military. The U.S. Defense Department hopes to employ 6,000 cyber security professionals by 2016, up from 1,800 earlier this year. “Our nation’s reliance on cyberspace outpaces our cyber security,” Hagel warned
The announcement comes just days ahead of a planned visit to China, where Hagel will likely be forced to answer for reports that the U.S. spied on the country by infiltrating Chinese phone-maker Huawei. The two countries have clashed before over cyber security issues, and Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei has hinted he may exit the U.S. market altogether over spying accusations leveled at the company.
The U.S. has also taken a hard line against activist hackers including Anonymous, reflecting the growing threat from smaller groups and even individual hackers.