House Appropriations Advances Defense Spending Bill

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Areas of concern for cybersecurity include building the workforce and 5G development.

The House Appropriations Committee approved a $694.6 billion bill to fund the Defense Department in a 30-22 vote, as lawmakers noted the inclusion of resources to secure cyberspace.   

“This bill strengthens national security with robust funding to support ongoing operations and maintenance of existing assets,” Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-NY, said at the beginning of a markup session Tuesday. “It procures the latest military systems while investing in research and development needed for future capabilities, especially the growing needs of cyberspace.” 

The committee entertained some light sparring over amendments regarding issues such as whether the president should be allowed to use money from the Defense budget for wall construction along the Southern border or be allowed to use a 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force against Iran, but eventually passed the bill with $133.6 billion in base funding for procurement and  $104.3 billion in base funding for research development, test and evaluation, with $3.51 billion of the latter going to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, according to a summary.

“The Committee recognizes that the Department of Defense has challenges hiring individuals with the necessary security clearances to work in the cyber environment and encourages the Secretary of Defense to find innovative solutions to increase the civilian cyber workforce,” reads the committee’s report on the bill. “The Committee believes that the Department of Defense should collaborate with colleges and universities to recruit college students during their junior or senior years, with the intent that upon graduation the student will have a completed security clearance.”

Other cybersecurity-related parts of the report encourage the department to implement a “zero trust architecture” to protect its systems and data, invest in research on distributed ledger technology such as blockchain, and to develop a strong domestic supply chain for fifth-generation networking.  

The $694.6 billion in new discretionary spending authority for the Department of Defense represents an increase of $1.3 billion above the fiscal 2020 enacted level, and $3.7 billion below the president’s budget request, according to a committee press release.

The committee also marked up funding bills for Commerce, Justice, Science, and related agencies, and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies.

On Wednesday, the committee will continue to make its way through spending bills and mark up legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security, Financial Services and General Government.