Martin Falbisoner

Cuts Proposed for Key Cybersecurity Agency

House Appropriations Committee reduces but retains White House cuts to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Friday’s big news on the Hill was House passage of Congress’s major annual defense policy bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, which was chock full of tech and cyber provisions.

The House bill included a 16 percent funding hike for U.S. Cyber Command and mandated a new Pentagon and State Department plan to combat and deter adversary cyberattacks.

It also directed the Pentagon to study ways to give clearer cybersecurity guidance to contractors and to ease the training pipeline for DOD cyber operators. The bill also urged DOD to rely more on cloud computing in military exercises and wargaming.

Amendments to the bill:

  • Require the Pentagon to update its cyber strategy to include more details about offensive cyber operations.
  • Inform Congress about any Russian cyberattacks or attempted attacks against DOD systems during the past two years.
  • Prohibit DOD from contracting with telecoms that assisted with cyberattacks committed by North Korea.
  • Urge DOD officials to help Ukraine improve its cyber defenses.
  • Authorize the House Speaker and Minority Leader to request additional help from the executive branch if House is under cyberattack.

An amendment from Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., that would prohibit the president from forming a joint cyber unit with Russia, did not make the cut.

Intel Bill Orders Election Hacking Report

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the House Intelligence Committee passed its annual policy bill, the Intelligence Authorization Act. This year’s bill requires the Director of National Intelligence to publish an unclassified report on foreign cyber threats targeting election campaigns.

The bill also orders up reports on the potential value of a cyber exchange program between the intelligence community and private companies and on the IC’s role in the government decision making process about whether to hoard or disclose newly discovered cyber vulnerabilities.

House Cuts NIST Funding, But Not As Much as White House

Also on Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee forwarded a Commerce, Justice and Science funding bill that cuts money for the government’s main cyber standards agency but by less than President Donald Trump requested.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology will receive $865 million in the House bill. That’s $87 million below 2017 fiscal year levels but $140 million above the president’s request, according to a committee breakdown. A NIST official previously said budget cuts would be divvied up in a way that has less impact on the agency’s cyber mission.

The bill would also boost funding for the FBI’s cyber crime mission and require agencies to conduct supply chain reviews before buying sensitive IT equipment to reduce the chances foreign hackers can get a foothold in those systems.

Hearings to Watch

Confirmation hearings pepper Congress’ schedule, including one for Federal Communications Commission leaders. Chairman Ajit Pai is up for reappointment while lawmakers will review nominees Jessica Rosenworcel and Brendan Carr. Expect hard questions about net neutrality and rural broadband programs. FBI Director nominee Christopher Wray goes for another round with the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday.