Obama Budget Promises Stronger Infosec

President Proposes Cut in IT Spending in FY 2013
Obama Budget Promises Stronger Infosec
President Obama's budget - his election-year plan on how he would spend federal dollars in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 - calls for the strengthening of government cybersecurity while reducing overall information technology spending by more than a half-billion dollars.

The budget, unveiled Monday (Feb. 13), calls for the government to spend nearly $78.9 billion in fiscal year 2013 on information technology, which includes IT security, down from almost $79.5 billion enacted for the current fiscal year, according to a presentation made by Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel. In fiscal 2011, the government spent nearly $82.2 million on IT.

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The Office of Management and Budget didn't provide details on proposed government IT security spending, but suggested the reduction in overall information technology spending won't diminish its cybersecurity efforts. That's because the administration expects to realize efficiencies through a number of cost-saving initiatives, including data center consolidation and the Cloud First initiative to encourage cloud computing. Some of the savings from these efforts could be used to bolster cybersecurity.

[Also see Budget Cuts Would Hit HIPAA Enforcer]

According to the administration, the government has shuttered more than 140 government data centers and is on track to close nearly 1,100 by the end of 2015. "Overall," the budget states, "the data center optimization efforts are expected to yield $3 billion to $5 billion in savings. And through the Cloud First policy, agencies are shifting from a capital-intensive model toward a more flexible operational model where they pay only for the services they use. The ultimate goal is to improve service to the American people."

The federal budget is a plan; actual appropriations to spend federal dollars come in authorization legislation. No one expects the president's budget to be adopted because of the partisan divide within Congress during an election year. Still, the document provides a roadmap to the administration's thinking on the direction it wants to take on cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity R&D Initiatives

Take, for instance, research and development projects the administration envisions to promote a secure and reliable cyberspace. The White House proposal would give the National Science Foundation $110 million for basic research initiatives aimed to secure the nation's critical information infrastructure, the mostly privately owned networks that control the flow of money, energy, food and other vital things that make society function. The National Science Foundation would work with federal agencies to decide how to divvy up the money to reserachers. The administration also proposes giving the National Science Foundation another $57 million for a coordinated cybersecurity research initiative.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, under the budget, would get $86 million above current levels to fund research for a number of projects, including ones focused on cybersecurity.

DHS, DoD, Intelligence Agencies Infosec Plans

The budget proposes spending $769 million to support the operations of the Department of Homeland Security's National Cybersecurity Division, which safeguards federal computer systems and sustains efforts under the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative to protect American information networks from the threat of cyberattacks and disruptions. Some $202 million of the DHS IT security budget would go to improve government-wide continuous monitoring of vulnerabilities in government IT systems.

Turning to defense and intelligence cyber initiatives, the budget avoids stating how much the government would spend because of national security reasons. Still, the budget would fund the Defense Department's support of cybersecurity efforts at DHS to protect the federal government's unclassified civilian information technology networks. The budget also would fund DoD cybersecurity pilots in partnership with DHS to determine how best to protect private-sector operated critical information infrastructures.

The intelligence agencies budget would enhance cybersecurity capabilities to help protect federal networks, critical infrastructure and America's economy while improving the security of intelligence networks against intrusion and counterintelligence threats, according to the budget.

The administration also pledged to maintain recent increases in the Justice Department's programs to combat terrorism threats, including information security initiatives under the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative.

About the Author

Eric Chabrow

Eric Chabrow

Retired Executive Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Chabrow, who retired at the end of 2017, hosted and produced the semi-weekly podcast ISMG Security Report and oversaw ISMG's GovInfoSecurity and InfoRiskToday. He's a veteran multimedia journalist who has covered information technology, government and business.

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