Cyber gets $1B boost in White House budget

The White House’s fiscal 2016 budget boosts cybersecurity funding by nearly $1 billion.

The administration’s proposal earmarks $14 billion to support governmentwide efforts to defend the country against cyberattacks. For the past several years, White House budgets have kept cyber spending around $13 billion.

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The 2016 budget also sets aside $105 million for 25 agencies to establish or enhance a digital service team, an initiative meant to bring tech sector expertise to agencies’ information technology, including cybersecurity.

“We would be making a critical error if we avoid making these investments,” President Obama said from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) when announcing the budget. “We can’t afford not to.”

Cyber funding has been largely stable or increasing in recent years. The major spending bill Congress passed during the lame-duck session boosted cybersecurity funding at the FBI and several other agencies while holding it constant at many others.

High-profile data breaches at companies like Target, Home Depot, JPMorgan and Sony Pictures have raised public awareness of the nation’s weak cyber defenses and the rising threats from hackers. Cyberattacks on federal agencies, from the U.S. Postal Service to the White House, have put pressure on the government to act.

“No sector, network, or system is immune to infiltration by those seeking to steal commercial or government secrets and property or perpetrate malicious and disruptive activity,” the budget proclaimed. “Addressing these threats requires a comprehensive approach.”

The White House wants to spread the $14 billion in cyber spending across a number of initiatives. It would raise investments in a DHS project to better detect cyber intrusions and share cyber threat information with the private sector, bolster cybersecurity research at the Defense Department, enhance cybersecurity workforce training and give the government’s cyber employees a joint workspace.

“These resources will allow the government to more rapidly protect American citizens, systems and information from cyber threats,” the budget said.

DHS funding has received heightened attention recently as the agency’s money is slated to run out at the end of February. The major spending bill that Congress passed during the lame-duck session, known as the “cromnibus,” funded all agencies except the DHS through fiscal 2015.

The department's finances are locked up in a battle over Obama’s recent actions on immigration. Republican lawmakers are looking to pass a DHS budget that defunds the administration’s efforts.

But the DHS has also become the center of the White House’s cyber efforts. The administration recently put the agency at the center of its legislative proposal to enhance cybersecurity information-sharing between the public and private sector.

"Against just about every threat that we face — from terrorist networks to microscopic viruses to cyberattacks to weather disasters — you guys are there," Obama told the DHS workers.

Monday’s budget offering would continue to run the administration's cyber initiatives through the DHS. The government’s system to detect cyber intrusions, known as EINSTEIN, is housed within the DHS and would receive $480 million. A DHS operational security program intended to strengthen non-DOD networks would also receive $103 million.

Additionally, Obama pushed for $227 million to build a “Civilian Cyber Campus” that would provide space for the cyber workers from the DHS and other agencies to work on public-private cyber partnerships.

If DHS funding runs out, Obama said Monday, “it’s the end to any new initiatives in the event that a new threat emerges.”

“Don’t jeopardize our national security over this agreement,” he added. “We need fund the department, pure and simple.”

The House passed a DHS budget in early January and the Senate is expected to take it up this week. But a number of Senate Democrats have already indicated that the elements defunding Obama’s immigration policy make the House version unpassable.

A large chunk of the cyber budget would go to DOD. The agency requested $5.5 billion for cyber initiatives, roughly $400 million more than it did for fiscal 2015. The money be used for cyber research as well as enhancing the cyber defenses of U.S. weapons programs, which officials say are vulnerable to digital threats. 

— Updated 3:23 p.m.