6 takeaways on cybersecurity policy from the president’s FY 2023 budget

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The administration expects CISA to grow by just under 300 full-time employees over the next year, for example.

President Joe Biden is stressing a commitment to cybersecurity with his fiscal year 2023 budget. So Nextgov zoomed in to see what specifics we could glean, apart from an 11% increase across the board for non-defense agencies’ cybersecurity spending. Here, in no particular order, are a few other clear takeaways:

Hiring efforts in context

The administration expects the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to grow by 276 full-time employees over FY 2023. In 2022, CISA was estimated to have 2,464 FTEs and the actual number in 2021 was 2,400, according to an appendix the White House released with its proposal.

The agency and its parent department have touted a new Cyber Talent Management System to help with recruitment, but the agency’s responsibilities seem to grow by the second. Most recently, a new incident reporting law tasked the non-regulatory agency with conducting a complicated rulemaking process.      

Overall Spending Increase, but no love for R&D at CISA

Of the total $2.5 billion proposed for CISA—an overall $500 million increase from the previous year—$545 million should be obligated for “procurement, construction and improvements,” as opposed to the majority of the funding which goes to “operations and support.” That’s generally proportional to recent years, but in 2023, funding for Research and Development should fall off a little further to $4 million. That was estimated to be $5 million in 2022, down from an actual $13 million spent in 2021. 

Mayorkas highlights where the money would go 

In a statement reacting to the budget, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas shed a little more light on where the agency’s resources are expected to go. He said $8 million would go toward operationalizing a Cybersecurity Advisory Committee and Cyber Safety Review Board called for in Executive Order 14028, which was issued in response to a massive hacking campaign that breached nine federal agencies and was attributed to Russian Foreign Intelligence.

Some of that $8 million would also be used “to enhance CISA’s advisory council management capabilities through the creation of an Advisory Council Program Management Office,” Mayorkas said. He added $425 million would go toward the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program and $175 million toward “ efforts to secure and increase resilience for privately-owned critical infrastructure through risk management and collaboration with the critical infrastructure community.” 

Where agencies should spend extra cash, and look for more

Noting the increase in agencies’ proposed cybersecurity allotments, the budget highlights four memos the Office of Management and Budget issued to implement EO 14028: OMB M-22-09, M-21-30, M21-31and M-22-01. Those detailed instructions for operationalizing the concept of zero-trust, protecting critical software through enhanced security measures, putting in place logging and incident response procedures and setting up Endpoint Detection and Response technology. The budget also highlighted an additional $300 M in funding for the Technology Modernization Fund, which the administration has said can be used for related projects. 

Coordinating cyber response

The budget documents the White House released took time to note coordination with the Office of the National Cyber Director. NCD Chris Inglis and Federal Chief Information Security Officer Chris De Rusha were grilled by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, during a hearing last fall on their apparently overlapping responsibilities regarding agencies’ cybersecurity budgets.

“The efforts around the president’s budget supports (sic) ONCD’s efforts to improve national coordination in the face of escalating cyberattacks against government and critical infrastructure,” reads an analytical perspective from the White House.

Federal Acquisition Security Council role post-SolarWinds

The budget suggested a central role for a Federal Acquisition Security Council whose chairman—the federal CISO—says wasn’t set up to address the challenges highlighted by the suspected Russian hack of Dec., 2020 that is commonly referred to as “SolarWinds” after the federal IT management contractor that was breached. The hacking campaign also leveraged Microsoft’s Active Directory Service.

“Agencies must assess risks to their [Information and Communication Technology] Supply chains,” the budget document reads. “The FASC will make recommendations on exclusion orders. These critical steps help agencies safeguard information and communications technology from emerging threats and support the need to establish standards for the acquisition community around [Supply Chain Risk Management].”

An OMB spokesperson told Nextgov, “There has been no change in the Administration’s policy regarding SCRM or the FASC.”

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