DHS budget includes funds for wall, cyber and border tech

The $2.2 billion request for fiscal year 2019 holds steady on cybersecurity programs and makes a new push for the E-Verify program.

President Donald Trump's fiscal year 2019 budget would give the Department of Homeland Security significant money for technology to support a border wall, maintain the ongoing Einstein and Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation cybersecurity programs and support a key online immigration data portal.

In addition to the almost $18 billion to construct a border wall, the president wants $2.2 billion for high-priority investments in border security technology, infrastructure and equipment to help Customs and Border Protection prevent, detect and interdict illegal border crossings.

The $2.2 billion request also includes $182 million for surveillance technology, such as towers, radars, cameras and sensors to give the Border Patrol situational awareness in high-risk areas, as well as $149 million for critical equipment and facility needs, such as Border Patrol stations, vehicles and radios.

Along with such front-line technology, officials said the budget includes a request for $131 million to continue modernizing the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ online E-Verify program, which is used by businesses to confirm employees' immigration status. The budget continues to call for mandatory, nationwide use of the E-Verify system, and the funding supports that expansion, one official said.

In October, the president told Congress all U.S. employers should be required to use the E-Verify system that checks the Social Security numbers of newly hired employees against Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security records to ensure employees have the necessary authorizations to legally work in the country. The White House has earmarked E-Verify as a keystone in its secure border push, and Trump said companies that don't comply with E-Verify would face "strong penalties," while federal contractors that don't comply would face debarment.

Only a handful of states -- Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee and Utah -- currently require companies to use E-Verify to screen new hires.

Administration officials said the new budget maintains 2018 budget levels for cybersecurity funding to protect the .gov environment. The $815 million cybersecurity budget request for 2019 includes $238 million for CDM; $407 million for Einstein intrusion detection; $158 million for emergency communications and $12 million for state/local “soft target awareness” and training programs, the officials said.

The steady funding streams, officials said on a Feb. 12 conference call with reporters, are intended to address the increasing scope and pace of cyber threats.