Senate NDAA Pushes for More Cyber, AI Investments

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Senate hearing Congressional-min

The Senate version of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes multiple provisions in the bill’s report that push the Department of Defense (DoD) to make greater investments in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI).

The report, released September 12, offers $668.5 billion in funding for military operations. The bill passed committee and currently awaits a vote from the full Senate. The bill – which outlines the broad strokes of the proposed funding – is accompanied by a committee report, which offers more specific details on how the money will be spent. Once the bill passes the Senate, it must be reconciled with the House version of the NDAA.

On cybersecurity, the Senate committee appropriates the Trump administration’s requested amounts for most cyberspace activities, but provides more than requested for U.S. Cyber Command and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), and less than requested for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). The bill also fully funds the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) at $208 million for FY2020.

In its mandates to agencies, the bill directs the Air Force to provide “robust funding levels” for its cybersecurity program to keep up with emerging threats, and calls on the Navy to provide “full funding” for cyber vulnerability assessments. The committee also called for DoD to spend $20 million to secure satellites, due to “the vast, rapidly evolving space-based cybersecurity threat facing the U.S.”

On the education and workforce development side, the bill recommends an increase in funding for the Cybersecurity Center of Excellence program administered by DoD and the National Security Agency (NSA). The committee also recommends establishing a pilot program that would offer certificate-based courses at universities with the Center of Excellence distinction, and offering scholarships to graduates of senior military colleges going into cybersecurity. The bill also encourages DoD to recruit more cybersecurity professionals from minority communities, with a focus on historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Finally, the Senate NDAA includes funding to boost the cyber defense workforce across the country in general with scholarships and grants.

On AI, the committee reaffirmed its commitment to utilize commercial advances, including work with small businesses.

“Recent advances in commercially available technology have made it possible to develop, manufacture, and deploy technologies that can process information more effectively and efficiently, and at much lower cost than legacy systems,” the committee notes.

The bill encourages that the Defense Innovation Unit find commercial AI technologies that can help serve DoD’s goals, and pushes the Secretary of Defense to collaborate more with small businesses on AI.

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