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House bill would provide $749 million for DHS cybersecurity

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Cybersecurity funding at the Department of Homeland Security would increase 63 percent from $459 million to $749 million under a proposed 2013 spending bill by the House Appropriations Committee.

The increase would fund new initiatives to improve federal network security and defend against foreign espionage, according to a committee press release. The House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee will mark up the bill on Wednesday.

Cyber funding would be $20 million below the president’s $769 million request. Both the administration and some members of the Senate are backing legislation that would give DHS new authorities to regulate cybersecurity. The 2012 Cybersecurity Act, S 2105, would authorize the DHS to regulate security standards for certain privately owned critical networks, such as those affecting the power grid and other systems that, if attacked, would cause death, severe economic damage or national security risks.

Skeptics of DHS’ ability to regulate industry point to the department’s troubled chemical facility security program, or CFATS. Congress in 2007 directed DHS to beef up the physical security and cybersecurity of chemical facilities. But that program suffered from unstable leadership, inadequate training and poor hiring decisions.

The spending bill would provide $45 million for CFATS, $29 million below what was requested and $47 million below current spending levels. “This reduction is due to significant managerial problems, program delays and poor budget execution,” the new release said.

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