Newly Signed Approps Bill Funds DoE Cyber Office, IT Projects

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A multi-agency appropriations bill signed into law by President Trump on Friday provides funding for a new office at the Department of Energy focused on protecting critical infrastructure, along with a range of smaller IT-related projects.

The appropriations bill–H.R. 5895, the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act of 2019–includes $120 million for “energy sector cybersecurity, energy security, and emergency response activities in carrying out the purposes of the Department of Energy Organization Act.”

That work will be carried out through the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) that DoE established in February.  The White House proposed $96 million of funding for the new office for FY 2019, but it fared better than that through the legislative appropriations process, reflecting increased congressional focus on critical infrastructure, including in the energy sector.

“DOE plays a vital role in protecting our nation’s energy infrastructure from cyber threats, physical attack and natural disaster, and as Secretary, I have no higher priority,” said Energy Secretary Rick Perry when the CESER office was created.

The same appropriations bill also funds the Veterans Administration’s (VA’s) IT budget at a total $4.1 billion for FY 2019. The budget allocates $2.5 billion for maintenance, $1.2 billion for pay and associated costs, and $380 million for new systems development. Included in the development category is a new cybersecurity program to protect electronic health records.

“VA is urged to ensure that patient records being transferred from DoD to VA have the same level of security and data-level protections as provided by the Department of Defense,” the House-Senate conference committee report states.

The bill also includes $1.1 billion for VA’s electronic health record (EHR) modernization project, $100 million below the department’s request. The committee also made note of a scheduling system set to be developed alongside the EHR system, and questioned whether that development needed to be paired with the EHR system.

Among smaller projects, the funding bill includes $6 million for IT development and facilities repair for the Government Publishing Office within the legislative branch. The bill also directs agencies to “expand their use of ‘E-Commerce’ technologies and procedures in the conduct of their business practices and public service activities.”

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