Cybersecurity

State Department unit created to fight foreign election interference still waiting on funding: report

A State Department unit established to blunt election interference efforts by foreign countries has still not received funding that was allocated for the project two years ago, HuffPost reported.

The news outlet reported that the Defense Department agreed to provide $40 million in funding to the Global Engagement Center earlier this year following complaints from lawmakers. However, the money still had not arrived as of last week, and a Senate aide told HuffPost that the amount had since been cut in half to $20 million.

A State Department official told the news outlet that the Global Engagement Center would "be fine" even with the reduced amount of funding. The official said the center is waiting on another $20 million through the State Department's budget.

Congress allocated $120 million in 2016 to the Global Engagement Center in the State Department to fight foreign efforts to influence or meddle in democratic elections. The New York Times reported in March that the State Department still had not spent any of the money.

President Trump has drawn criticism at times for his handling of the threat of interference in U.S. elections.

The president attracted scrutiny after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July, where Trump cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

He walked back those remarks, only to later suggest that others besides Russia may have been responsible.

The Trump administration has attempted to place the focus on intelligence officials' efforts to blunt further interference efforts. The White House trotted out several top officials at a press briefing last month, where each individual described their department's effort to combat election meddling.

Each official specifically called out Russia and warned that they continue to see Russian efforts to interfere.

Lawmakers in Congress have also attempted to combat election meddling. Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) last month introduced the Secure Elections Act, which has a companion measure in the House, to improve information sharing between state and federal officials to combat cyber threats to U.S. elections.

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