by Constantine von Hoffman

Obama Budget Ups DHS Cybersecurity Spending as Congress Considers Expanding Agency Private Sector Authority

Feb 15, 20122 mins

Timing of funding boost for Homeland Security seems a little more than coincidental

President Obama’s new budget nearly doubles cybersecurity funding for the Department of Homeland Security. This comes as the Senate takes up a bill that would hugely expand DHS influence on private sector IT security efforts.

Under the new budget, DHS is asking for $769 million to fund its National Cyber Security Division. The NCSD is supposed to protect federal networks and coordinate with the private sector on safeguarding critical infrastructure systems such as utility grids. That is a key and controversial component of the Senate bill. Supporting cyber security is hot on Capitol Hill now because it allows Congress to act like it has a clue about technology, so this part of the budget is a slam dunk.

It would take a lot to think this increase isn’t directly related to The Cybersecurity Act of 2012 now being considered by Congress. Under the proposed law, DHS – the same folks responsible for preventing cupcakes from being brought on to airplanes – would be able to determine which private-sector firms to operate “covered critical infrastructure.” Those that do would be subject to DHS regulation of their IT security. This idea is based on the theory that more paperwork is needed to make critical networks safer. Although widely practiced this theory remains unproven for some reason.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Joe Liebermann (I-Ct), the usually sensible Susan Collins of Maine – ranking Republican on the homeland security committee, Commerce Committee Chair John Rockefeller (D-W.V.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chairs the Select Committee on Intelligence. All those who have always thought a congressional committee on intelligence is pure comedy gold please raise your hands. It’s unanimous.

By the way, the National Cyber Security Division (did DHS resurrect George Orwell to name all its agencies?) isn’t the only cyber effort getting more money. The proposed budget also increases funding for the Secret Service computer crime squad, a Homeland Security unit, by 4 percent. In addition, DHS wants $10 million for online piracy probes.