Senate includes nearly $2 billion in cyber, tech funds to COVID-19 bill

Senate includes nearly $2 billion in cyber, tech funds to COVID-19 bill
© Greg Nash

The Senate included close to $2 billion for federal cybersecurity and technology modernization programs in its version of President Biden’s proposed COVID-19 relief package.

The funds fall short of the more than $10 billion originally proposed by Biden in his American Rescue Plan, but far more than the House included in the version it approved along party lines earlier this week. The House stripped out Biden’s proposed funds for these areas.

The Senate included $1 billion for the General Service Administration’s Technology Modernization Fund, a fraction of Biden’s originally proposed $9 billion for the fund, which is intended to help the federal government launch new cyber and information technology programs. 

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The Senate also included $650 million to help the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) increase its risk mitigation services. While this was less than the $690 million Biden has proposed for CISA, the Senate did include the $200 million Biden proposed for the U.S. Digital Service.

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats press Schumer on removing Confederate statues from Capitol Democrats' do-or-die moment Biden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan MORE (D-N.Y.), who unveiled the proposed legislation on Thursday, did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment on further details on the cyber and technology funding.

Biden included the funds in his proposal following the discovery late last year of what has become known as the SolarWinds hack. 

U.S. intelligence officials have concluded the cyber espionage incident, one of the largest in U.S. history, was “likely” carried out by Russian hackers, and a White House official said last month that at least nine federal agencies and 100 private sector companies were compromised as a result.

The breach was cited in the Biden administration’s original American Rescue Plan proposal as a major justification for increasing the federal government’s cybersecurity and technology funds. 

“In addition to the COVID-19 crisis, we also face a crisis when it comes to the nation’s cybersecurity,” the administration wrote in the proposal. “The recent cybersecurity breaches of federal government data systems underscore the importance and urgency of strengthening U.S. cybersecurity capabilities.”

“President Biden is calling on Congress to launch the most ambitious effort ever to modernize and secure federal IT and networks,” the administration noted, pointing to both the SolarWinds breach and the need to protect the COVID-19 vaccine process from potential cyberattacks.