Appropriators appear to back more cyber spending

Jeh Johnson

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said his immediate priorities include aviation security, border security and cybersecurity.

Lawmakers at a budget hearing appeared cautious but receptive to proposed increases to the Department of Homeland Security's cybersecurity budget as Secretary Jeh Johnson continued to pitch them on the progress made last year.

Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's Homeland Security Subcommittee, said he was disappointed with the overall budget submission but is "somewhat comfortable with the $250 million increase proposed for cybersecurity enhancements, but not if the majority of the funds are increases to personnel."

The Obama administration's proposed $1.6 billion cybersecurity budget for fiscal 2017 includes $274.8 million for the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program, which seeks to protect federal networks from cyberattacks. That represents a $170 million increase over the fiscal 2016 enacted level for CDM. In addition, the budget seeks $471.1 million for the Einstein network-protection program.

"Einstein 3A has the ability to stop known threats, but it also is a platform for future capability to stop suspected threats," Johnson told lawmakers. He said it is "unique in that it can rely upon classified information to detect and stop known threats. That is key to the future that we have the ability to stop suspected threats."

A recent Government Accountability Office report was critical of the program because of its reliance on threat signatures that don't shield against unknown attack vectors. However, Phyllis Schneck, DHS' deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity and communications, recently told FCW that the system can be deployed in conjunction with available intelligence to detect and ward off hackers that are using new methods of intrusion.

Johnson sounded a similar theme, arguing that Einstein 3A "provides the platform for that future capability" and telling lawmakers that after the Office of Personnel Management hack, Einstein 3A protection was extended to 50 percent of the federal government and is available to 100 percent.

When asked about his main goals, Johnson said his immediate priorities include aviation security, border security, cybersecurity and making sure the Secret Service is adequately staffed and funded.

When asked about cybersecurity threats to critical infrastructure, Johnson told FCW: "Since the earthquake in Japan a couple of years ago, I think the private-sector critical infrastructure [providers] and the government have made a considerable concerted effort to get to where we need to be through communication and engagement.... We are making, I think, significant strides in that area."

Johnson told the committee that he intends to use the department's funding to protect the country and "leave the Department of Homeland Security a better place than I found it."

About the Author

Aisha Chowdhry is a former staff writer for FCW.


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