Obama proposes big increase in cybersecurity spending at DHS

Fiscal 2010 budget proposal is vague on IT spending, but officials believe the administration will target education, grid computing and health care.

President Obama proposed a 21 percent increase in the Homeland Security Department's fiscal 2010 cybersecurity budget, but how the funds would be distributed remains unclear, according to the administration's proposal released on Thursday.

In his first, and relatively small, one-volume budget proposal, Obama called for $355 million in cybersecurity spending in DHS, up from the $294 million fiscal 2009 budget, "to make private and public sector cyber infrastructure more resilient and secure," according to the budget. DHS is using most of the fiscal 2009 budget to deploy Einstein, a system to analyze civilian agencies' systems for cyber threats and intrusions.

The administration said this budget would support operations in the national Cybersecurity division and initiatives under the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, a Bush administration project. Funding for cross-agency cyber initiatives likely will come from other sources, as was the case in fiscal 2009.

"Cyber remains extremely important," said Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer for FedSources, a consulting firm in McLean, Va. "The fact that the administration hasn't named a [chief technology officer], but selected Melissa Hathaway to do a 60-day cyber review, is a statement that this is a bit more important right now."

The Obama administration has not publically commented on whether the Bush administration's Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative will be changed. Obama officials have stated that the program will move forward in some form, Bjorklund said.

Overall, Homeland Security's 2010 budget request is $42.7 billion, up about 6 percent from the fiscal 2009 total.

Obama's budget also includes $64 million to modernize systems to screen travelers and workers at U.S. airports, and $110 million to expand the E-Verify system companies use to check if newly hired employees are eligible to work legally in the United States. In January, the Obama administration postponed until May a rule that would require government contractors to use the system.

The fiscal 2010 budget included few details about technology programs. IT executives expect the administration to release a separate, more detailed technology budget later this year.

But the budget document indicates IT programs could be marked for big increases, according to Bjorklund. "While we certainly don't yet have the details for the IT budget or specific programs, a quick scan of the budget provides a fair number of hits for IT as an enabler of government and national economic strength," he said. The administration could target education, grid computing, health care and cybersecurity for bigger increases.