Congress OKs cybersecurity bill

A bill that authorizes the first steady stream of funding for cybersecurity research and education is on its way to President Bush for his signature, after the final version cleared the full Congress Nov. 12.

The Cybersecurity Research and Development Act (H.R. 3394) authorizes more than $900 million for, among other things, grants and scholarships through the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Standards and Technology, and guidance for federal agencies.

The bill has changed since it was introduced in December 2001, but its primary purpose is still to kick-start the security community, officials said at a news conference announcing the passage of the bill. But the funding will not be an instant solution, they warned.

Once the money is approved, it is to be dispensed over five years, not in one big chunk, William Wulf, president of the National Academy of Engineering, pointed out.

"It's not a quick-fix bill; it's a bill to build the human and intellectual capital in the long run," he said.

While the bioterrorism community and others have thousands of researchers, students and professionals, the information security and cyberterrorism community does not. In fact, only seven people graduated with doctoral degrees in information security last year, Wulf said.

"We lack that basic research infrastructure in the case of cyberterrorism," he said. "The reason for that has been a very erratic funding pattern."

Without guaranteed funding in the security arena, researchers and students do not focus on that subject, limiting the number of advances and trained security professionals, he said.

The bill does authorize funding, and word of that authorization already has spread into the academic community, said Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Science Committee and sponsor of the bill. "They know about this bill and they're gearing up," he said.

However, the $903 million is not guaranteed. Members of the House and Senate who co-sponsored the bill are talking with the appropriations committees and the Office of Management and Budget, working both sides to make sure that the money really comes through, Boehlert said.

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