OVERNIGHT TECH: Budget proposal eyes more cyber weapons, tech tools

THE LEDE: Cyber got a big boost in President Obama's budget request released on Monday.

The Obama administration's budget would earmark $14 billion for agencies across the government to increase their cyber defenses, a $1 billion increase over previous years. The move comes amid heightened concern about cyber issues in the administration following major hacks at companies from Sony Pictures to Target.

ADVERTISEMENT

Among other things, the new money would go towards beefing up a Department of Homeland Security project to track digital intrusions, increase the Pentagon's cyber research and better share information about possible threats with private companies.

Dozens of new digital strike teams on the horizon: The president's budget request also pegs $105 million to expand the U.S. Digital Service, the White House tech task force formed out of the team that turned around HealthCare.gov. The Obama administration wants to create similar teams in 25 key agencies, it said. At the Commerce Department, for instance, the team "will be responsible for driving the efficiency and effectiveness of the department's highest impact, client-focused technology systems," according to Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews.

FTC wants an extra $16 million: The Federal Trade Commission is asking for a $16 million increase to bump its funding up to $309 million. That increase is needed to keep up with the "growing challenges and responsibilities" the agency faces, it said, such as new technologies and consolidating markets. About half of the extra money will go to improve internal technology operations and update various systems, the FTC said.  

'Black budget' increase: The White House's budget request would grow the secretive "black budget" used to fund a handful of intelligence agencies by $3.4 billion. The fund would expand to $53.9 billion under the administration's plan, up from $52.7 billion given last year. The 2013 figure though was reduced to $49 billion because of sequestration cuts.

Feds peg $158 million for smart cars: The administration's budget proposal includes $158 million in fiscal 2016 to speed up research for automated vehicle technology and cars that communicate with each other. "As cars exchange safety data on speed, direction, and relative position to surrounding vehicles and infrastructure, research estimates that [vehicle-to-vehicle] technology has the potential to reduce 70 to 80 percent of vehicle crashes," the Department of Transportation said in a statement. "Such innovative technology will help American workers and goods travel faster and safer on our roads."

NASA requested $18.5 billion, slightly higher than the $18 billion it was given in fiscal 2015. The largest portion of that -- $8.5 billion -- would go to "Human exploration operations," which include commercial support in developing a taxi to and from the International Space Station, as well as work on a vehicle to send astronauts into deep space. Other funding for science and research would be increased 6 percent from fiscal 2015 levels.

The Commerce Department is seeking $9.8 billion -- a $1.3 billion hike from FY 2015. That includes $3.5 billion for the U.S Patent and Trademark Office. The department's proposal highlights the plan by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to work with industry to develop a cybersecurity sharing framework.

GOP wants Obama help on net neutrality: Republicans are soliciting President Obama's help to pass net neutrality legislation. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn House GOP lawmaker wants Senate to hold 'authentic' impeachment trial Republicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-S.D.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) penned a letter to Obama accepting the president's State of the Union call to work together. The GOP has crafted draft legislation that adopts many of the open Internet principles that Obama and other advocates have supported, while also rolling back some FCC authority. The White House previously said it was open to working with Republicans but would not support legislation to "strip the FCC" of authority.  

"This legislation places these principles into law, without the uncertainty of litigation that Commission action would entail," the senators wrote in the letter. "Working together to craft sustainable protections will have lasting benefits for our country and Internet users alike."

Dish discount a 'mockery': One Republican FCC commissioner is calling to investigate whether Dish Network actually qualifies for more than $3 billion in discounts in the last spectrum auction that ended last week. Dish was one of the largest bidders in the airwave auction and qualified for discounts by bidding through two smaller companies in which it has 85 percent ownership. Those discounts would be allocated through the "designated entity" (DE) program, intended to make it easier for small companies to compete with other giants during the auction.  

"DISH, however, has annual revenues of almost $14 billion, a market capitalization of over $32 billion, and over 14 million customers. Its participation makes a mockery of the DE program," GOP commissioner Ajit Pai said in a statement.

AT&T, Verizon have used same program: Dish said it "respectfully" disagreed with Pai's criticism and expressed confidence that it complied with all the rules, which other mobile phone companies have used in the past. "Our approach -- publicly disclosed ahead of the auction -- was based on DE investment structures that have been approved by the FCC in past wireless spectrum auctions, including structures used by AT&T and Verizon," the company said in a statement.

New shot for FOIA reform: Lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced legislation on Monday to update the Freedom of Information Act, after a similar bill failed to make it across the finish line late last year. The new FOIA Improvement Act would establish a "presumption of openness" among federal agencies and limit an exemption for certain inter- or intra-agency documents. It would also require agencies to post frequently requested information and take other steps to streamline the FOIA process.

"An open and transparent government is the linchpin of American democracy, and I'm pleased to continue my partnership with Sen. [Patrick] Leahy [D-Vt.] to improve this important law as we work together with our colleagues in the House to promote greater accountability for the American people from their government," Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn On The Money: Trump, China announce 'Phase One' trade deal | Supreme Court takes up fight over Trump financial records | House panel schedules hearing, vote on new NAFTA deal On The Money: Lawmakers strike spending deal | US, China reach limited trade deal ahead of tariff deadline | Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst over new NAFTA MORE (R- Texas) said in a statement. A similar bill barely passed the Senate during the lame-duck period last year, but was never considered on the House floor.

Ex-Chu aide to Music Publishers Association: The former chief of staff to Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) will be the new vice president for industry relations and government affairs at the National Music Publishers' Association. Amelia Wang spent five years with Chu's office, where she helped found the Congressional Creative Rights Caucus, before starting with the trade group on Monday.

Charter goes to K Street: Charter Communications has brought on Porterfield, Lowenthal, Fettig & Sears to lobby on telecommunications issues, according to a new disclosure report.

Regional broadcasters lobby up: The regional broadcaster organization for Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia has made their first lobbying hire, according to records. Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard will work on "issues affecting radio and television stations," according to the federal filing, which may include music royalties, retransmission consent, tax deductions for advertising and upcoming reviews of current copyright law as well as the Communications Act. 

 

ON TAP:

At 10 a.m., the AFL-CIO will explore "why IP/copyright matters." Speakers include Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.); Chris Dodd, president of the Motion Pictures Association of America; and Liz Shuler, the AFL-CIO's secretary treasurer.

Pandora founder Tim Westergren will take part in a fireside chat at startup hub 1776 starting at 6:30 p.m.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Congress is not a shining example of the good that comes when cameras are introduced into government proceedings, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan said Monday.

A trio of bipartisan House members is reintroducing a bill that would require a warrant to obtain someone's email or location information.

The tech lobby is mounting its forces to fight against Mississippi's demand that Google hand over information about how it takes down illegal content.

The head of the Federal Communications Commission is urging his fellow commissioners to block state laws that would prevent cities and towns from building out their own government-run Internet services.

America's biggest tech companies are eager to make sure they don't get left out of the Obama administration's trade plans

 

Please send tips and comments to Julian Hattem, jhattem@thehill.com and Mario Trujillo, mtrujillo@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter: @HilliconValley@jmhattem