Committees approve more money for cybersecurity

The House and Senate Appropriations committees have approved different measures to fund the Homeland Security Department in fiscal 2009, and each would provide more money for cybersecurity than the Bush administration requested.

The House bill, approved June 24, would spend $299 million on cybersecurity, while the Senate measure, approved June 19, would allot $319 million. The administration had requested $294 million for cybersecurity for fiscal 2009, compared with the enacted budget of $210 million in fiscal 2008.

Overall, including cybersecurity, the House measure would provide $847 million in funding for infrastructure protection and information security, while the Senate bill would spend $808 million, compared with the $841 million the administration requested.

Although both measures support the administration’s proposed cybersecurity initiative, the committees added some requirements.

The House measure would withhold half of the $242 million the administration requested to fund the cybersecurity initiative, half of the $48 million pledged to the Next-Generation Networks program and the $14 million for the National Command and Coordination Capability program until DHS submits detailed spending plans for those projects and the committee approves them.

“The committee has seen far too many instances of troubled and ultimately wasteful investments made by DHS agencies that have not properly planned for major acquisitions,” the committee's report states.

Although it did not threaten to withhold funding, the Senate committee did instruct the administration to conduct a privacy impact assessment of the cybersecurity initiative to make sure it complies with federal laws.

However, the Senate panel took a tough position on the administration’s request for $61 million for the National Command and Coordination Capability program, a new information-sharing initiative. The Senate measure would spend $6 million on the program, which is expected to cost $400 million over eight years. The panel also directed government auditors to examine the program.

The House bill would match the administration's request of $247 million for DHS’ Office of the Chief Information Officer, a $48 million decrease from fiscal 2008 funding. Meanwhile, the Senate committee recommended $275 million for that office — $20 million less than it received in 2008.

Both committees exceeded the administration’s request for state and local grants by more than $1 billion. Administration officials have said the request is in line with their request for fiscal 2008.

Both committees agreed to match the president’s request of $775 million for DHS’ SBInet program, which seeks to use a mix of border security fencing, infrastructure and technology to secure the United States' borders. However, the House measure would restrict $400 million of that money until both appropriations committees and the Government Accountability Office approve an expenditure plan.

The House committee's measure would spend $934 million on the Coast Guard's Deepwater acquisition program — about $57 million less than requested — and would withhold $500 million pending the submission of a detailed management and expenditure plan to both appropriations committees. The Senate bill would spend $1 billion on the program — $28 million more than the administration requested.

Both bills exceed the administration’s request for discretionary spending by more than $2 billion.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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