Cybersecurity Is A Key Area Of Interest As House And Senate Appropriations Committees Hold Hearings On The President’s Budget For Fiscal Year 2019

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Following the enactment of the Omnibus Appropriations bill in March, Congressional appropriators have turned their attention to reviewing President Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget.  Last week, House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees held multiple hearings on agency budget proposals containing significant cybersecurity-related funding requests, including the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) and the Department of Energy (“DOE”).  Not surprisingly, cybersecurity was a key focus area at each of the hearings.

During the April 11, 2018 House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing on the President’s fiscal year 2019 DHS budget proposal, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen emphasized the importance of addressing cybersecurity threats, noting that “our networks are under attack constantly from all corners of the physical world.”  She went on to add that addressing cyber threats is an issue that “keeps [her] up at night.  It changes quite quickly.  It’s prolific.  It’s non-stop, and it’s from many, many sectors.”  Under President Trump’s proposed budget, DHS would receive over $1.3 billion in support of cybersecurity initiatives and other critical infrastructure protection.  At the hearing, Secretary Nielsen fielded a number of cybersecurity-related questions from Subcommittee Members.  Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) announced that he would be releasing a report on DHS cybersecurity efforts and requested Secretary Nielsen’s commitment to work with him and the Subcommittee to hold a hearing focusing on DHS’s cybersecurity efforts.  Rep. Scott Taylor’s (R-VA) asked Nielsen about DHS’s ongoing work with the private sector to address cyber threats.  In response, Secretary Nielsen emphasized DHS’s focus on providing its private sector partners with threat information “more quickly and in a tailored way,” and also highlighted the important role Information Sharing Analysis Centers play in this effort by maximizing the flow of information across private sector infrastructures and with government. 

On the same day, the Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee held a hearing on the fiscal year 2019 DOE budget proposal, with Secretary of Energy Rick Perry appearing as the lead DOE witness.  Like Secretary Nielsen, Secretary Perry’s testimony focused on the importance of DOE’s cybersecurity mission.  He noted that “among the most critical missions at the Department is to develop science and technology that will ensure Americans have a resilient electric grid and energy infrastructure.  Protecting this infrastructure means it has to be resilient and secure to defend against the evolving threat of cyber and other attacks.”  Secretary Perry also highlighted a number of key cybersecurity-related funding requests, including $96 million for the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response, $185 million in cybersecurity funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration, and $43 million for DOE’s Environment Management program. 

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are expected to hold additional budget hearings in the coming weeks.  We will report on any cybersecurity-related developments.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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