White House 2019 Budget Backs Front-Burner Cyber Efforts, but Cools on Research

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The Trump Administration’s proposed $4.4 trillion budget for FY2019 would add some money to the cybersecurity pot, supporting ongoing programs and manpower levels, while cutting back on cybersecurity research and redistributing where the research money goes. Administration budget requests are largely political documents whose numbers won’t hold up once Congress gets done with making the sausage, but they do reflect White House priorities.

The budget targets $15 billion governmentwide for cybersecurity-related activities, a jump of $583.4 million, or 4.1 percent, over estimated fiscal 2018 levels. The biggest chunks of that money, not surprisingly, would go to the Department of Defense (DoD), with $8.5 billion (a $340 million, or 4.2 percent, hike) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ($1.74 billion, a fractional jump from $1.72 billion).

DoD’s proposed allocations would go toward continuing its three primary cyber missions:

  • Protecting the department’s networks, information, and systems
  • Supporting military objectives
  • Defending the nation, including its infrastructure, against attack

The budget also will maintain the U.S. Cyber Command’s 133 Cyber Mission Force (CMF) teams, which were initiated in 2013, got to initial operating capability by October 2016, and are expected to be fully operational by the end of this year. (The overall $686 billion request for DoD accounts for adding 25,900 military personnel by the end of fiscal 2019.)

The budget “allows us to fill in units and provide key skills related to recruiting pilots, maintainers and cybersecurity experts,” Defense Department Comptroller and Chief Financial Officer David Norquist said at a news conference. “It also allows us to add units related to reinforcing the National Defense Strategy,” referring to a document that emphasizes the importance of the cyber domain in military operations.

DHS’ cyber unit, the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), would get $3.3 billion overall in the budget, which is line with the administration’s 2018 request. Among direct cybersecurity efforts, the budget proposes $785.8 million for operations and support, with about $225 million for cyber readiness and response, and $460 million for Federal cybersecurity. “As these threats continue to evolve, DHS cybersecurity programs are more important than ever,” the budget document says, citing a constant barrage of cyberattacks and threats to infrastructure.

The Department of Energy also would get cyber funds aimed at protecting infrastructure, including $95 million for the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response, and $180 million for the Grid Modernization Initiative.

Where NPPD would see a huge boost is in cybersecurity research funding, which would go from an estimated $2 million in 2018 spending to $41.4 million for 2019. The administration offsets that increase, however, with substantial cuts in other areas. DHS’ Science and Technology Directorate–by design the department’s primary research and development arm–would take the biggest hit, going from $93.5 million in 2018 to $22.8 million.

Elsewhere, cybersecurity spending for the National Science Foundation would drop from $158 million to $144 million, while the National Institute of Standards and Technology would get $78.3 million, slightly lower than $78.7 million in the 2018 estimate, but down 6.75 percent from $84.4 million in actual 2017 spending. The budget also includes $210 million for the Technology Modernization Fund, which was set up under the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, but to date has gone unfunded.

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