DISA, DIU take hits in House defense bill

Lawmakers are taking note of seemingly unjustified defense growth in crafting of the 2020 defense authorization bill.

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House Democrats want better accounting from Defense Department agencies when it comes to the 2020 defense authorization bill.

The proposed budget for the Defense Information Systems Agency was seemingly penalized for unjustified growth in the latest version of the House's 2020 defense authorization bill.

The House Armed Services Committee authorized $2.03 billion for DISA -- $15.1 million more than requested in its draft 2020 defense bill -- but the chairman's mark from Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) dinged the agency $20 million for "unjustified growth" under operations and management funding. The Sharkseer program that uses artificial intelligence to scan incoming traffic for threats, however, got a $35 million increase, accounting for the overall increase. Lawmakers also rescinded $1.9 million from DISA's request in the 2019 NDAA for "excess growth" under operations and management budget.

Research funding for the Defense Innovation Unit stayed essentially flat at $29.4 million for 2020, but DIU fell way short on its prototyping request. The chairman's mark authorized only $17 million, compared to the $92 million requested for 2020.

The reason, according to the mark, was due to "insufficient budget justification for national security innovation capital." The Senate's version of the bill gave DIU a $7.5 million increase to accelerate artificial intelligence efforts.

Final funding for DIU, DISA, and other tech efforts could be at the center of a House debate on the Defense Department's overall budget authorization. Many HASC Republicans voted against referring the Democrat-led chairman's mark to be voted on by the House after an amendment to increase the topline budget by $17 billion, some of which would have been dedicated to emerging tech efforts, was defeated.

HASC Ranking Member Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) who championed the amendment told reporters following the bill markup June 12 that everybody "wants to get to yes on the House floor," and "I think we'll have to regroup and analyze."