House's DHS funding bill would create public-private cyber center

The legislation would give $2.25 billion to DHS' cyber wing and set up an integrated cybersecurity center with other agencies, state and local governments and private industry.

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The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency would receive a hefty budget increase and establish a joint cybersecurity center under a new $56 billion Homeland Security funding bill crafted by the House Appropriations Committee.

The bill would set aside $2.25 billion for CISA operations, about $239 million above 2020 spending levels and nearly half a billion more than the agency requested. Approximately $11.6 million would go toward establishing a new Joint Cyber Center for National Cyber Defense.

The Cyberspace Solarium Commission report recommended that Congress boost CISA’s authorities to align with its expanded mission to offer cybersecurity services and support to federal agencies, state and local governments and the private sector. That includes strengthening a public-private, integrated cyber center within CISA and establishing a Joint Cyber Planning Cell to coordinate planning and readiness across government and industry. A House Democratic aide told FCW the measure in the House bill was inspired by both those recommendations.

“The idea is to establish a joint cyber center to bring together federal and [state, local, tribal and territorial] governments, industry and international partners to strategically and operationally counter nation-state cyber threats,” the aide said.

Other notable funding provisions for CISA include $19.4 million for the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center, $6 million to beef up Hunt and Incident Response Teams, $18 million to support supply chain risk management priorities, $10 million for vulnerability management infrastructure and $32.6 million for cyber defense education and training.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection would get $14.6 billion in discretionary funds, more than a billion dollars less than the agency requested. The House bill would pour $531 million into developing new technologies for border agents, including $190 million for imaging technologies, $190 million for IT-based border security systems, $20 million for port of entry technology, $45 million for innovation and $14 million to outfit agents with body cameras.

The Transportation Security Administration would get $75 million to pay for an influx of new 3D computed tomography scanning systems. Such scanners have been called a “game changer” by TSA officials in the fight to detect explosives and liquids in carry-on baggage and demand for the systems at airports often outstrips the agency’s supply. Another $20 million would reimburse airports for legacy purchases of other explosive detection systems.

The Coast Guard would receive $26.9 million for command, control, communications, computers, cyber and intelligence systems, while another $78 million go to operational upgrades to cyber, satellite and communications systems.

Both Democrats and Republicans expressed broad support for many of the funding measures, but the bill passed on a party-line vote over a number of spending reductions and restrictions on immigration activity. 

Earlier this year the Trump administration announced it would divert more than $3.8 billion from the Pentagon’s budget to fund the construction of barriers and fencing on the Southern border after Congress refused to fund the measure. The appropriations bill would rescind $1.3 billion from CBP’s Fiscal 2020 procurement, construction and improvement accounts in response to that move and specifically prohibits the use of any appropriated funds from this year’s budget for additional Border Patrol agents or barriers.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement would also suffer heavy cuts, more than $668 million below 2020 spending levels and $2.5 billion less than the White House requested. However, the bill would boost funding for Homeland Security Investigations, ICE’s investigative arm that oversees policy for agency-wide use of facial recognition systems, by $220 million. 

It would also severely restrict the ability of DHS agencies to transfer or reprogram funds more generally, something House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) said was necessary after the department “violated” a longstanding informal agreement last year that gives agencies more flexibility to transfer funds as long as they do so with the blessing of congressional overseers.

“It is unfortunate the controversial issues in our bill overshadow all the good, bipartisan work we do together,” Roybal-Allard said at a July 7 markup.

Roybal-Allard said the committee is also in ongoing discussions with TSA, CBP, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency about additional funding requests related to the coronavirus pandemic.