President Obama is seeking a 35 percent hike in cybersecurity funding in his final budget to boost the capability of the federal government to defend itself against cyberattacks.
The proposed $19 billion request, which represents one of the largest increases ever sought in this area, comes as Congress and the public have witnessed an alarming series of intrusions in recent years against targets ranging from Target and Sony to the Pentagon and the Office of Personnel Management.
The proposal, which will be announced Tuesday morning with the president’s 2017 budget request, is part of a larger package of initiatives the White House is calling the cybersecurity national action plan.
“[The plan] is intended to go after the underlying causes of our cybersecurity challenges, not at the symptoms,” said Michael Daniel, the White House cybersecurity coordinator, in a news conference call Monday.
The money would go toward replacing aging — in some cases decades-old — computer systems with new machines and software, hiring additional skilled personnel, and increasing capabilities at the Pentagon’s Cyber Command and the FBI as well as in civilian agencies such as OPM and the Department of Veterans Affairs, officials said.
Some portion of the money will go to the classified cyber budget for intelligence agencies such as the National Security Agency and the CIA, they said.
About $3.1 billion of the pot will go to modernizing computer systems and to hire a new federal chief information security officer to direct these changes across the government.
The funds are intended to finance a new approach toward federal cybersecurity that is more like that of the private sector, officials said. That might include consolidating email systems or having different agencies share data storage centers or network security operations centers, they said.
“We realized that if we just kept going with the same incremental improvements we’ve been trying to make, we’re never going to get there,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the plan’s details. “It was a recognition that unless you really put some serious money against” the problem, “we weren’t going to make a big enough dent in it.”
Some initiatives can be carried out administratively.
The cyber plan, for instance, calls for the creation of a commission to make recommendations on actions to enhance national cybersecurity over the next decade. It calls for a campaign to urge more people to adopt anti-hacking techniques such as “two-factor” authentication, which combines a password with a fingerprint or a text message code.
Obama also has signed an executive order creating a federal privacy council to bring together privacy officials from across the government to help achieve a comprehensive set of federal privacy guidelines, the White House said.
But in other areas, congressionally approved funding is key, officials said. The Justice Department, which includes the FBI, is seeking an increase of 23 percent to help it better identify, disrupt and arrest hackers. Cyber Command is building a force of 133 teams made up of 6,200 military, civilian and contractor personnel, with the goal of being fully operational in 2018.
Some cybersecurity experts said that without a smarter approach to developing talent, much of the money may well be wasted. Consolidating systems is a good idea, but the federal government lacks people with the skills to run them, said Alan Paller, research director at the SANS Institute, a Bethesda-based cyber training center.
“The U.S. government is providing lightweight skills to thousands of people and then allowing them to take positions” they are not qualified for, he said. “There is no way they can protect the government with the lack of good, high-tech people.”
The senior administration official acknowledged that just “throwing money at the problem” will not work. “You’ve got to do business differently.”
This article was written by Ellen Nakashima from The Washington Post and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.