The federal government’s National Security Strategy and the Department of Defense’s National Defense Strategy make the case that funding for cybersecurity and technology within federal agencies is essential to advance U.S. strategic interests, but a new analysis from big data firm Govini found that federal agencies are still lacking resources to meet those standards.
The report, titled “The 2019 Federal Scorecard,” was released in July.
“What we’re seeing is an overall reduction in science and technology investments on the federal side, but within the budget that does exist you’re seeing an increase in the kinds of technologies that are critically important for what those departments do and how they fit into DoD," said Kathryn Harris, senior vice president strategy and growth at Govini.
These cuts are seen most dramatically in agencies such as the Department of Energy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, according to Govini’s findings. NIST’s budget would shrink about $300 million in the fiscal 2020 budget request.
However, while federal agencies are facing overall cuts for technology, some specific programs within these agencies are slated to receive funding increases, such as the Energy Department’s Office of Science, which has requested a $5.5 billion request for funding to advance artificial intelligence, machine learning and quantum information science. These increases will add $10 million to quantum, bringing the total to $169 million, $8 million for artificial intelligence, bringing their total to $71 million, and $10 million for microelectronics, bringing their total to $25 million, according to Govini and the fiscal year 2020 budget request.
“It’s sort of a mixed bag. You see the overall top line reduction for technology, but nonetheless small good trend that there is a slight increase in the kinds of technology that are most highly relevant for great power competition," Harris said.
Funding for cybersecurity in the president’s budget request for fiscal 2020 also falls under the characterization of “a mixed bag,” Harris said.
The Energy Department’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response is slated to receive at 30.4 percent increase from fiscal 2019 levels. In addition, the FBI requested an increase of $70.5 million to target cyber actors, according to Govini’s findings.
“It seems to me that the FBI is trying to make a shift from a counterterrorism mission that they have had for the last almost two decades to more of a sort of modern global competitor mission,” Harris said. “This increase in cybersecurity and targeting cyber actors that threaten U.S. interests in the homeland is critically important.”
However, funding for DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, one of the biggest civilian federal investments, has decreased by 5.6 percent, a fact Harris calls concerning.
“They list cybersecurity as one of their top priorities, yet it is still cut by 5 percent,” Harris said. “Across the interagency, DHS has the overall lead for cybersecurity as well. So there is a little bit of inconsistency, I think, with what they say is their priority, what their role is, and the importance of their role in the interagency.”