White House officials ask for $154 million in new cybersecurity spending

White House officials today asked Congress for more than $436 million in new cybersecurity and counterterrorism programs in the Homeland Security and Justice departments’ fiscal 2008 spending bills.

“These amendments are necessary to enhance Federal civilian agency cybersecurity and strengthen defenses to combat terrorism,” President George Bush wrote in a letter to House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Bush said $386 million of the new spending would be offset by reductions in previously requested funding and cancellation of unobligated balances, and $50 million would come from funds appropriated in U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Care, Hurricane Katrina Recovery and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act of 2007.

The House and Senate have passed separate versions of the bills, which are awaiting the conference committee so lawmakers can work out their differences. The Senate has appointed conferees for both bills, but the House has not.


"This is an area that has been severely lacking the administration’s attention," said Joy Fox, spokeswoman for Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, and Science and Technology. "Chairman Langevin is encouraged to see any action from the administration that addresses concerns he has repeatedly raised through hearings and through announcement of the cybersecurity commission."

It has been rumored that White House officials may announce a new cybersecurity initiative, but it is unclear whether this is it or just a piece of it.

In the request, the administration asked for $115 million to enhance DHS’ ability to deploy the Einstein program through the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team. Einstein monitors about 13 participating agencies’ network gateways for traffic patterns that indicate the presence of computer worms or other unwanted traffic. By collecting traffic information summaries at agency gateways, Einstein gives US-CERT analysts and participating agencies a big-picture view of bad activity on federal networks.

"They know monitoring works and they want more monitoring," said Alan Paller, director of research at the Sans Institute. "The money will be used to get out more monitoring more quickly and do more analysis of the data. That is useful and necessary because what they discovered is the federal perimeter is broken. One of few ways to find bad guys in [the] perimeter is a more intent analysis of traffic coming out of the computers."

The extra money would help DHS expand the program more quickly. In an interview earlier this year, Mike Witt, US-CERT’s deputy director, said the office plans to have most Cabinet-level agencies in the program by the end of 2008 and then expand participation to more of the midsize and small federal agencies later.

DHS requested about $13.9 million for Einstein in 2008, according to agency budget documents. There is no cost for agencies to sign up for Einstein, but DHS must have the money for people and equipment to set up the system on agency routers.

Justice, meanwhile, would receive $39 million to help the FBI investigate incursions into federal networks, increase intelligence analysis and provide technical tools for investigations and analysis.


"These are two things that are most successful and needed money,"  said Paller. "There will be a huge amount of money spent on cyber projects and I believe this is the budget for public facing part. The rest will be in the black budget."

Bush also requested an additional $282 million to combat terrorism at both agencies.

The DHS request would increase the National Protection and Programs Directorate’s budget to more than $653.2 million. The FBI’s increase would come in salaries and expenses where more than $6.4 billion would be available for cybersecurity and counterterrorism work.

"More money for the FBI is essential," Paller said. "The number of cases they have to turn down is breathtaking. They don’t have the bodies to follow up on all cases and as long as bad guys assume they will not get caught, they will accelerate their attacks."

To find the extra money, Bush recommends using unobligated funds from a number of different DHS offices, including the chief information officer ($873,000), the Customs an Border Protection automation modernization project ($6.1 million) and the Science and Technology Directorate ($216,000).

Fox said Langevin will follow this request would consider sending a letter of support to the appropriations committee.
 
"Hopefully this is the start of a real commitment from the administration on cybersecurity across the board," Fox said.

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