Homeland Security wins in Trump budget, especially in cybersecurity [Commentary]


Photo Credit: Jim Watson/AFP

The Department of Homeland Security fared well in the unveiling of the Trump administration’s first proposed federal budget. DHS will receive a budget increase of 7 percent, largely to support border security and cybersecurity missions.

The entire DHS proposed budget for 2018 is $44.1 billion. $4.5 billion of that budget will be directed to border security initiatives including hiring of new agents. The budget sets aside $314 million to hire and train 500 Border Patrol agents and 1,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel next year. Another $1.5 billion would go toward supporting the detention and removal of illegal immigrants.

The budget highlights President Trump’s prioritization of cybersecurity, as $1.5 billion will be allocated toward protecting federal networks and critical infrastructure from cyberattacks. The proposed budget also sets the stage for his anticipated Executive Order aimed at strengthening cybersecurity capabilities in the civilian, Department of Defense, and intelligence communities.

At the recent Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Cyber Disrupt Summit, Tom Bossert, the White House homeland security and counterterrorism advisor, stated that the top three cybersecurity priorities in the Executive Order will be 1) protecting federal networks and data, 2) protecting critical infrastructure, and 3) protecting U.S. citizens in cyberspace.

The top priority of protecting federal networks comes after the revelation by the Office of Management and Budget that federal agencies reported 30,899 cybersecurity incidents to DHS’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team during fiscal 2016.

The anticipated Executive Order will make federal agency leaders directly accountable and require they implement the cybersecurity framework developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to measure and mitigate risk. Combined with Einstein, the situational awareness and intrusion detection protection system of DHS, the new protocols and responsibilities should increase preparedness of federal networks to fend off cyberattacks.

The budget blueprint also calls for increased cybersecurity cooperation and information sharing between the public and private sectors. DHS’s cyber-threat information sharing program that was implemented as part of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) legislation will likely expand the program’s role in the public/private partnership efforts.

Collaboration between government and industry stakeholders is a proven model that was promoted by past administrations too. Public/private cooperation can enhance risk management and modernization efforts. Industry and government can cooperate to identify new cybersecurity tech products, align flexible product paths, evaluate technology gaps, and help design scalable architectures. That partnership will also lead to more efficiencies, and fiscal accountability, a declared goal of the administration.

DHS and the Department of Defense, the two biggest winners in the president’s proposed 2018 budget, will also have more of an information sharing partnership in accordance to the budget blueprint and President Trump’s campaign pronouncements for establishing a “Cyber Review Team” comprised of subject matter experts from the military, law enforcement and the private sector. His campaign policy platform stated that he would order an immediate review of all U.S. cyber defenses and vulnerabilities, including critical infrastructure and that appears to be happening.

Tom Bossert will be working closely with Rob Joyce, who will be taking on the role of White House cybersecurity coordinator. Rob Joyce was in formerly charge of the National Security Agency’s office of Tailored Access Operations.

It should be noted that the 2018 budget proposal will be subjected to a congressional process that will involve amendments, debates, and inevitable changes pushed by constituent interests before it is appropriated.  Despite that process, the bi-partisan funding priority of the DHS cybersecurity mission will likely remain elevated.

Chuck Brooks is vice president of government relations and marketing for Sutherland Government Solutions. Chuck served as the first legislative director for DHS’s Science & Technology Directorate. He also served as a top advisor to the late Sen. Arlen Specter, covering security and technology issues on Capitol Hill.