White House: IRS needs large cybersecurity budget boost

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The IRS has dealt with severe funding cuts over the past few years. (iStockphoto)

The Obama administration wants to give the IRS a ton of cash to help boost its cybersecurity efforts.

In an updated fact sheet, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget is looking to give the IRS $242 million to protect taxpayer information, a 72 percent increase over 2015. Overall, the new request is asking for $14 billion across the federal government to support its cybersecurity goals.

The money for the IRS would go toward improving detection and prevention of attacks, investigations of international tax frauds, new information sharing systems, and assistance for tax fraud victims.

Earlier this year, data taken from third-party sources was used to access 100,000 taxpayer accounts through the IRS’ “Get Transcript” application. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told the Senate Finance Committee in June the breach could mean as much as $50 million would be lost to fraudulent returns. According to the Treasury’s Inspector General for Tax Administration, the IRS loses $5 billion per year to identity theft and fraud.

The White House report says the IRS has “substantially increased” its investment in combating identity theft and tax fraud, despite severe agencywide funding cuts. Koskinen told the finance committee as much in June, saying the IRS is always working to upgrade systems but is hamstrung by the recent loss of several staffers from its IT department, along with constrained budgets and the unfunded mandate to align its systems with the tax penalties related to Healthcare.gov.

The financial services spending bill, which encompasses the Department of Treasury’s budget, has been marked up in both the House and the Senate’s appropriations committees. But it has not faced a vote on the floor of either chamber.

Meanwhile, the new request would have the departments of Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs seeing large increases in their cybersecurity budgets as well. The Obama administration is calling for HHS to receive $262 million, a 23 percent yearly increase, to fund a “Computer Security Incident Response Center” to monitor agency networks, support upkeep of the Trusted Internet Connection program and provide training for those employed to protect “high-value assets.”

Nothing in the document talked about fraud prevention, which was the subject of a scathing Government Accountability Office report in July. The GAO created fake accounts on Healthcare.gov that were picked up for coverage in 2015.

The White House wants $180.3 million, a 15 percent increase, for VA, looking to do much of the same as what is directed for HHS.

The administration also wants increases for the Homeland Security and Justice departments. The money for DHS would go toward expanding the Einstein and Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation cybersecurity programs. The former is expected to be available to all federal agencies by the end of the year.

The Justice allocation would go toward cyber intrusion investigations, the FBI’s Next Generation initiative and FISMA management.

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Cybersecurity, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Justice (DOJ), Departments, Government IT News, Internal Revenue Service, Tech, Treasury Department, White House
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