DoD Spending Bill Clears Senate, Funds Cyber Research

A Defense Department appropriations bill that would provide $356 million in additional funding for DoD cyber research cleared the Senate today. The Department of Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2019 (HR 6157), which the Senate bundled with spending bills for the departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services, was approved by a vote of 85-7.

The bill includes $117 million for Army cybersecurity research efforts and $116 million for Missile Defense Agency cybersecurity enhancements.  Like the House version of the bill that was approved in June, the bill would bar DoD from doing business with Chinese firms suspected of cyber espionage (TR Daily, June 28).

Several senators had hoped to use the bill as a vehicle for a variety of election security and cyber crime amendments, including the bipartisan Secure Elections Act (S 2593), which has faced difficulties reaching the Senate floor as a stand-alone bill.  But only a handful of amendments, none of them related to election security or cyber crime, were approved.

The Senate Rules and Administration Committee yesterday canceled a planned vote on the Secure Elections Act because some of its provisions remained unpopular with some Republicans and state election officials (TR Daily, Aug. 22).

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), one of the bill’s sponsors, offered it as an amendment to HR 6157.  The bill, in its present form, would require states to use backup paper ballots in federal elections or forgo federal election funding and conduct post-election audits, and it would direct the Department of Homeland Security to improve cyber threat information-sharing with state election administrators.

The Secure Elections Act was one of several stand-alone bills offered as amendments to HR 6157.  Among them was the International Cybercrime Prevention Act (S 3288), which was introduced in late July by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s crime and terrorism subcommittee, and Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.).

S 3288 would give federal prosecutors new tools to shut down botnets, prohibit the sale of botnets, and make it a federal crime for hackers to target critical infrastructure, including dams, power plants, hospitals, and election infrastructure.

Sen. Graham also proposed an amendment that would require the State Department to establish an Office of Cyberspace and the Digital Economy.  A similar office was created at State during the Obama administration, but under the Trump administration the office was combined with several others and placed under the department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs.

Efforts have been underway in the House and Senate to reestablish a cyber office at the State Department that would be run by a Senate-firmed ambassador (TR Daily, June 26). —Tom Leithauser,

Courtesy TRDaily