Biden budget request calls for major investments in cybersecurity, emerging technologies
President Biden called for over $1.3 billion in cybersecurity funds as part of his proposed budget request sent to Congress on Friday, along with major investments in emerging technologies such as quantum computing and artificial intelligence.
The budget proposal was submitted in the wake of two of the largest cyber espionage attacks in U.S. history, including what has become known as the SolarWinds hack, which likely involved Russian hackers and compromised at least nine federal agencies and 100 private-sector groups.
In an effort to combat these rising threats, Biden requested a budget increase of $110 million for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), along with $20 million to establish a “cyber response and recovery fund” at the Department of Homeland Security.
CISA is one of the key federal groups leading the response to both the SolarWinds hack and recently uncovered vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s Exchange Server, which allowed at least one state-sponsored Chinese hacking group to access thousands of businesses.
CISA was previously given $650 million in the recently approved COVID-19 relief bill, an amount that CISA leadership described as a “down payment” to meet its needs.
“This funding would allow CISA to enhance its cybersecurity tools, hire highly qualified experts, and obtain support services to protect and defend Federal information technology systems,” Biden’s budget proposal, submitted to Congress by the Office of Management and Budget, reads.
Additionally, the budget proposal recommends $500 million for the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) at the General Services Administration in order to strengthen federal cybersecurity and replace aging systems, and allocates $750 million for reserve funds to strengthen agency information security.
The funds would be in addition to $1 billion recently allocated to the TMF program by the COVID-19 relief package.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and the significant cyber incident impacting agencies through products such as SolarWinds, continue to highlight the urgent need to modernize Federal technology, with particular emphasis on mission essential systems and citizen-facing digital services,” the proposal reads.
Biden also proposed extensive investments in emerging technologies, including through proposing the establishment of a directorate for technology, innovation and partnerships at the National Science Foundation. The organization would prioritize research and developments in fields including quantum computing, robotics, artificial intelligence, biotechnology and cybersecurity.
Biden last week called for the establishment of the technology-focused directorate by including $50 billion to fund the organization in his proposed infrastructure package.
The Commerce Department’s research and development around emerging technologies was also prioritized in the budget proposal.
The budget proposes increasing the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Science and Technology’s (NIST) annual appropriations by $128 million to further drive research and innovation around emerging technologies.
Additionally, it would give the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) $39 million to help spur development and deployment of broadband and 5G wireless technologies.
The funding proposal comes amid growing bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for investment in cybersecurity and emerging technologies, particularly in the face of threats from Russian and China.
The Biden administration has teased several measures it intends to take in responding to recent cyber espionage incidents, including an upcoming executive order meant to strengthen federal cybersecurity. A more specific response to Russia for its alleged involvement in the SolarWinds attack will also be announced in “weeks, not months” to come, according to White House officials.
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