Senate defense spending bill slashes IT by half-billion, uplifts cyber

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Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and ranking member Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., during the full committee markup of the fiscal year 2015 defense appropriations bill. (Credit: Senate Appropriations Committee) Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and ranking member Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., during the full committee markup of the fiscal year 2015 defense appropriations bill. (Credit: Senate Appropriations Committee)

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed a defense spending bill Thursday that would cut defense IT funding by a half-billion dollars and reduce President Obama’s military budget requests by $1.4 billion overall.

Listed as a way to increase efficiency in the department and reduce spending, the committee recommended a $500 million reduction in appropriations for non-cyber IT programs departmentwide as part of the fiscal year 2015 Defense Appropriations bill. “Trimming IT funding will help prioritize and better target non-cybersecurity IT investments in an era of fiscal constraint,” according to a summary of the bill from committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.

While the Senate Appropriations Committee recognized DOD’s efforts to improve IT efficiency and reduce waste, it said in a report accompanying the bill it “found a number of discrepancies where the resources reflected in the IT budget did not correlate to the operation and maintenance budget justification.” When it comes to enterprise IT in the department, the report states, the goal is to “reduce the cost associated with the Department’s overall information technology infrastructure by simplifying, centralizing, and automating infrastructure at the enterprise level.”

Though the Senate committee aims to condense IT spending, that doesn’t mean it’s losing sight of preserving and advancing DOD’s technological edge. The department’s primary technological concern is to become “more effective and more secure against cyber threats and vulnerabilities,” the report said. And that’s why, despite the greater cuts, cyber got some boosts from the Senate version of the defense budget.

The committee awarded the National Security Agency an additional $7.5 million for its National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education and Information Assurance Research, a program that allows NSA’s Information Systems Security Program to conduct classified research with approved universities.

The bill also grants DOD an additional $10 million for insider threat detection. The report commends the department for its progress in reducing the internal threats with practices such as end-user auditing, but it also recognized that the programs aren’t used robustly. Therefore, it allocated the additional budget to make the tools more widespread.

Combing through the bill, there are several other cyber initiatives with additional funding tacked on, like an added $12.5 million for general cyber force training and resiliency and $4.1 million for Cyber RED team training.

Additionally, the committee granted 5 percent increases to both innovative medical research, a $789 million bump, and basic research to all four military branches and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, an additional $257 million.

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Barbara Mikulski, Congress, Cybersecurity, defense spending, Department of Defense (DOD), Departments, Government IT News, Senate, Tech
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