Senate's funding bill includes cyber plans, CIO spending reviews

Continuing resolution includes IT provisions for DHS, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs in addition to avoiding March 27 shutdown.

Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski

"We’re the cooler heads," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee. (File photo)

The Senate on March 12 began consideration of a plan from Appropriations Committee chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, (D-Md.), and ranking member Richard Shelby, (R-Ala.), to fund the government through Sept. 30 and avert a March 27 shutdown when the current continuing resolution expires.

Pitched as an amendment to the $982 billion continuing resolution (H.R. 933) passed by the House of Representatives on March 6, the Senate plan calls for $1.043 trillion in spending, which would be reduced to $984 billion after the sequester math is applied. It adds appropriations measures for Agriculture, Commerce, Justice and Science and Homeland Security to the House version, which offered spending plans for Defense, Veterans Affairs and military construction.

"We’re the cooler heads, and we’re ready to prevail," Mikulski said in her March 12 floor statement. Shelby said he expected to pass a bill in the Senate this week.

Related story:

The Senate's CR also affects feds' pay. Click here for more information.

Both the House and Senate versions contain cybersecurity provisions. The House tabbed $218 million for the "Federal Network Security" program project to provide continuous monitoring and diagnostics to guard against security breaches. The Senate’s appropriation for the Department of Homeland Security puts $202 million to the effort, and sets a timetable for reporting cybersecurity plans to Congress, with agency heads required to submit improvement plans by July 1. In his remarks on the Senate floor, Shelby touted the cybersecurity measures as a clear advantage of the Senate amendment over the House bill.

The Agriculture appropriation contains a provision to centralize IT spending. No single IT project budgeted at over $25,000 can be funded without written approval from the agency CIO. Additionally, no funds can be spent on new IT systems or "significant upgrades" without the backing of the CIO and the department’s Executive Information Technology Investment Review Board.

The House bid to rein in spending on the joint Defense-Veterans Affairs integrated electronic health record project is maintained in the Senate amendment. Under the new limitations, only 25 percent of the budget for the integrated EHR project can be obligated until the agencies show that they have a timetable, and that they are singing from the same hymnal on budgeting, acquisition rules and data.

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