MeriTalk News Briefs: $1.1B for Cyber in DHS Spending Bill, Facebook Decree Violation Debated, Army Connecting With Startups

Welcome to MeriTalk News Briefs, where we bring you all the day’s action that didn’t quite make the headlines. No need to shout about ‘em, but we do feel that they merit talk.

Senate Appropriations Panel Approves DHS Spending Bill

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security approved the FY2019 Homeland Security Appropriations bill today. The current draft of the bill calls for $55.15 billion in spending, with $1.1 billion earmarked for cybersecurity and election security. The bill is scheduled for full committee consideration on Thursday. The $1.1 billion in funding is $86 million above the budget request level. Included is $406 million for the National Cybersecurity Protection System and an additional $47 million above the budget request for Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation. The bill also provides $33 million above the FY2018-enacted level to help states and localities with election security information sharing and assistance. Outside of the $1.1 billion, the bill includes $6 million in funding for the U.S. Secret Service to support the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and train state and local officials in computer forensics and cyber investigations.

Senate Commerce Talks Facebook, Possible FTC Decree Breach

The Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security met today to discuss the collection and use of social media data, privacy concerns following the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal, and steps to protect consumers. The hearing was a follow-up to a joint full committee hearing this past April with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The subcommittee, led by Chairman Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., heard testimony from John Battelle, CEO, NewCo; Aleksandr Kogan, lecturer, Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge; and Ashkan Soltani, former chief technologist of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The subcommittee spent much of its time discussing whether Facebook violated its 2011 consent decree with the FTC. Soltani, who stipulated his opinions were his own, said he believed Facebook did violate the decree and said the social media giant should face significant fines, otherwise it would be like a “parking ticket” to the company.

Army Looking to Connect With Startups

The U.S. Army launched the Army Expeditionary Technology Search (xTechSearch) on Friday in a move to connect with startups–and there’s $1.95 million up for grabs. xTechSearch, an initiative of the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, is designed to enhance engagements with the entrepreneurially-funded community, small businesses, and other non-traditional defense partners. The Army is looking to integrate startups and small businesses into its existing tech ecosystem. “xTechSearch is a novel approach for linking innovators directly with the Army labs, with a focus on lowering the entrance barriers and spurring innovation,” according to the challenge page. The prize competition will run until April 2019 in four different stages. The final winner will receive $200,000 and there will also be smaller prizes at each stage of the challenge. A tech proposal white paper is due by July 11 to participate in the competition.

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