Budget '09 roundup: Cybersecurity tops the wish list

Many agencies' IT projects would benefit from the president’s proposed spending

Cybersecurity break-ins at two Energy Department national laboratories late last year are only the latest incidents that highlight weaknesses in federal computer networks.

The national labs joined a growing list of agencies, including the Defense, Commerce and Homeland Security departments, that have been targets of successful hacker attacks.

Amid rising concerns about cybersecurity, President Bush requested spending for cybersecurity throughout his fiscal 2009 budget request.

For example, Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) requested a $122.5 million increase for information technology security funding, 22 percent more than Congress appropriated for fiscal 2008. The funding appeal also includes infrastructure development at NNSA’s landlord sites and a full year’s support of the agency’s Enterprise Secure Network.

ESN’s budget would go toward security improvements and the development and implementation of an agencywide need-to-know policy engine and a data gateway. The improvements would allow nonweapons classified data to be transmitted across ESN, an NNSA official said.

Also, DHS’ SBInet technology-focused border security program would get an additional $775 million.

Analysts said they were not surprised by the calls for increased spending in those areas.

James Carafano, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said the requests indicated that the administration is taking a look at its long-term priorities.

“This is kind of a natural evolution,” he added.

James Lewis, director of the technology and public policy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that after a summer filled with news about cyberattacks, the request to increase funding for the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team by $80 million made a lot of sense. US-CERT protects federal networks and cyber infrastructure.

Bush wants to increase funding for the State Department’s IT Central fund by a third, or more than $100 million, to a total of $414 million.

Lewis said the increased focus on IT at State, which includes mobile computing and communication initiatives, is a positive sign that the department is recognizing the needs of its officers.

“State needs to think about how to change what it does in IT to fit how people work,” Lewis said. “Getting more money into the central pot is a good idea.”

DHS and the Justice Department also proposed cutting funding for state and local grant programs by more than $1 billion compared with the spending Congress approved for 2008.

Congress allocated $2.4 billion to Justice for state and local discretionary spending in 2008, but the president’s budget proposal would consolidate Justice’s grant programs and reduce funding for states and localities to about $1 billion for 2009.

Meanwhile, DHS is asking for about $2.2 billion for state and local grants, including new grant programs. That amount is down from the $3.2 billion that Congress gave the department for the programs this year.

The Bush administration proposed paring DOD technology programs in favor of additional spending on personnel.

For example, the administration would cut $6 billion from projected $110 billion for DOD procurement, primarily in the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and Transformational Satellite programs.

“LCS is an example of a program where we weren’t able to get as far as we wanted to,” said Vice Adm. Steve Stanley, director of force structure, resources and assessment for the Joint Staff, during a press briefing at the Pentagon earlier this month.

Savings from the decrease in projected procurement spending would go toward military pay increases and enhancing the numbers of ground forces, Stanley said.

The administration requested $20.5 billion to re cruit, train and equip soldiers and Marines in 2009. It also wants $159.7 billion to help DOD maintain combat readiness and training standards and support recruitment and retention efforts.

The administration asked Congress for $5 million for the E-Government Fund, $2 million more than lawmakers appropriated in 2008. The fund, which supports interagency electronic government projects, has been a matter of debate every year since Bush took office.

The additional money would go to meet Congress’ mandate for an online, searchable database of government contracting and grant information. The Office of Management and Budget took the initial step when it launched the publicly searchable Web site, USASpending.gov, in December.

Karen Evans, administrator of IT and e-government at OMB, said the agency wants to improve how agencies turn in data and make it transparent.

She said OMB also wants to make research and development information widely available.

“We anticipate utilizing data quality processes…to avoid duplication of [IT] investments in place,” Evans said.

The General Services Administration offered to help OMB to meet that goal. In its 2009 request, GSA said it needs $2 million to help OMB ensure that the information on USASpending.

gov is up-to-date, easily searchable and free to the public, as Congress intended.

“These funds will support the interagency task force developing the site, as well as providing the hardware, software, hosting and maintenance of the site,” according to GSA’s request.

In the budget documents, GSA shared some financial news with its appropriators and overseers. GSA told Congress that the Federal Acquisition Service’s Assisted Acquisition Services portfolio faces tough challenges and will barely break even in 2008 and 2009.

The organization, which offers agencies fee-for-service project management, is expected to handle about $3.7 billion in business in 2008, but it will end the year with about $931,000. The organization lost $54.2 million in 2007 and $79 million in 2006.

Revenue for acquisition services has been higher than expected for the first quarter of 2008, GSA said.

Officials would use Commerce’s requested IT funding increase of $2.64 billion — almost half a billion dollars more than this year — to prepare for the 2010 census.

That amount includes more money for Commerce’s Field Data Collection Automation system of handheld computers and IT systems. The FDCA came under recent scrutiny by the Government Accountability Office and Mitre, hired by the bureau to conduct a third-party evaluation.

The president’s proposed 2009 budget would give the Federal Aviation Administration a significant boost in research and technology funding for its Next Generation Air Transportation System to $688 million, $500 million more than this year. FAA is the largest agency in the Transportation Department.

The IT investments include NextGen system development, networked facilities, and integrated airport and information management.

Almost half of that, or $300 million, would go toward implementation of FAA’s contract with ITT for the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, a new satellite-based surveillance system.

Last summer, FAA released public versions of NextGen’s enterprise architecture and concept of operations.

“The outline of the IT budget is setting the base and platform for NextGen, and we think that’s the proper thing to do as opposed to trying to do 100 percent [at once],” said Gerald Dillingham, director of physical infrastructure issues at GAO.

NextGen is a software-intensive initiative, so FAA’s IT acquisition capabilities are critical, Dillingham said. The agency has historically had problems with software acquisitions, but it has significantly improved that capability.

The Veterans Affairs Department is moving forward with multiple components of its integrated financial management system. The budget would target $45.1 million for the Financial and Logistics Integrated Technology Enterprise system to replace the older financial system and program.

VA’s budget also proposes spending for a health data repository, patient scheduling system and re-engineered pharmacy application.

“Increased project funding will allow us to transition to a common architecture,” said Stephen Warren, deputy chief information officer at VA.

Office of Personnel Management officials expect to introduce the first phase of the agency’s Retirement Systems Modernization (RSM) project this month with $26.9 million in hand from this year’s enacted funding. That figure would drop significantly next year — to $15.2 million — under the administration’s budget request as the system moves from the development stage to implementation.

The potential decline in funding comes on the heels of a recent report from GAO that raised major concerns about risks associated with RSM, one of OPM’s top priorities.

GAO auditors said the agency needs to conduct more effective tests, resolve defects and improve cost estimating and earned value reporting to ensure the system’s successful deployment.

However, in comments about RSM, administration budget officials said the fiscal 2009 proposal includes funding “to maintain timely processing of retirement claims, administer insurance programs, and improve the speed and accuracy of federal retiree benefit payments.”

Ben Bain, Wade-Hahn Chan, Mary Mosquera, Richard Walker and Matthew Weigelt contributed to this story.
 

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