The Trump administration has asked Congress for $3.4 billion to fund a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) division tasked with battling cyber threats to federal networks and critical infrastructure.
Line item funding requests detailed in the DHS’ National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) Budget Overview for 2019 include $1.5 billion for operations and support, $700 million of which is directed to operate and maintain the cyber security wing, $225 million for cyber readiness and response, $459 million for federal cyber security, $297 million for a national cyber security protection system, and $206 million for infrastructure protection.
In addition to the operations and support funding, the President is asking for $303 million for procurement, construction and improvements, $48 million for research and development, and $1.5 billion for the federal protective service, according to the budget document. An administration official reportedly said the budget allows Homeland Security to invest in the “most critical” cyber security needs in the current fiscal climate. “We believe that it is adequate,” the official said, according to The Hill.
While the 2019 budget proposal maps to similar figures for 2018, there are some noteworthy changes. For example, the $459 million requested for federal cybersecurity amounts to a four percent drop, and the $297 million for a national cyber security protection system is 13 percent less than called for in 2018’s budget. By comparison, research and development for 2019 is nearly quadrupled, with cyber security R&D spiked by roughly 800 percent to $41.4 million.
According to the budget document, the NPPD cyber security program handles securing the federal network, incident response, disseminating actionable information, and collaborating with private sector partners to defend critical infrastructure. The focus on infrastructure defenses is particularly important. Last year, hackers targeted U.S. government entities along with the energy, water, aviation, nuclear, and critical manufacturing sectors, DHS warned. And, last month a federal bulletin cautioned that the Meltdown and Spectre processor bogies could extend to industrial controls systems.
It does not appear that 2019 funding has been requested to specifically protect elections from cyber attacks. Along those lines, however, Daniel Coats, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, told the Senate Intelligence Committee today that Russia sees the 2018 midterm elections as another chance to influence the outcomes, the Washington Post reported.
Coats said he believes Russia will use propaganda, false personas and other tactics to undermine the upcoming elections as it did in the 2016 presidential campaign. His remarks echoed those of CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who two weeks ago said he has “every expectation” that Russia will try to influence the coming elections.