Trump’s Budget Heavy on Cyber, Mostly Silent on Other Tech Issues

President Donald Trump’s budget for fiscal year 2018 would bulk up cybersecurity while cutting other areas of interest to the tech sector, like trade and education, and staying silent on funding for autonomous vehicles.

The White House on Thursday proposed $1.5 billion for Department of Homeland Security programs designed to protect federal networks and critical infrastructure from a cyberattack and said the funding would also help agency share more incident data with other federal agencies and the private sector.

But that’s not enough for some on the other side of the aisle.

Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), founder and co-chair of the House Cybersecurity Caucus, said in an email statement that there is “too little detail in the ‘skinny budget’ released today to adequately assess the Trump Administration’s commitment to cybersecurity.”

The Rhode Island Democrat, who’s also a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he wants to see the administration invest in federal hiring, more research and development and procuring more modern IT systems.

Robert Morgus, a policy analyst with the New America Foundation’s Cybersecurity Initiative, said in an email that $1.5 billion is a “relatively weak signal from an administration that professes to be strong on cybersecurity,” and that government should be doing more to develop top talent in the cybersecurity field.

The budget “leaves several questions on funding cybersecurity protections for most of the cabinet level agencies, and in some instances may well be a retreat from such investment that could impact cybersecurity resiliency at the state level,” said Elizabeth Hyman, executive vice president for public advocacy at CompTIA, said in an email statement.

The White House budget requests $61 million for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to fight terrorism and combat foreign cyber threats as well as national security risks coming from “malicious actors’ use of encrypted products and services.” It also calls for beefing up cybersecurity at the Pentagon, the Treasury Department and at NASA.

Additionally, the administration says the budget would allow it to fund the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in its “mission of evaluating and ensuring the efficient use of spectrum by government users.” That support will aim to help the private sector’s development of next-generation wireless services, the White House said without providing details on how much money it would devote to that effort.

A Commerce Department spokesman said the White House budget proposes a top-line funding number — $7.8 billion — and it will be up to Secretary Wilbur Ross to divvy that money up among different functions of the agency. The department will then provide that proposed budget to Congress, the spokesman said. NTIA is housed within the Commerce Department. 

Ross said during his confirmation hearing in January that he will do his best to persuade federal agencies to free up spectrum for the wireless industry.

The White House made no mention of self-driving cars in the budget’s proposed $16.2 billion in funding for the Department of Transportation. For the fiscal 2017 budget, the Obama administration requested $200 million for pilot deployments of autonomous cars.

The Department of Transportation did not respond to request for comment.

The budget also proposes to stop funding agencies like the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency that are designed to help American exporters compete in foreign markets.

“If these cuts were to be enacted, they would signal the end of the American century as a global innovation leader,” Joe Kennedy, a senior fellow at The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, wrote in a Thursday blog post.

Trade is an issue that the tech industry should work on with the Trump administration, according to Consumer Technology Association President and Chief Executive Gary Shapiro and Internet Association President and Chief Executive Michael Beckerman.

“Refusing to work with Trump by sitting out this presidency — or refusing to support pro-innovation Republicans – is bad for America and will harm the future of our industry,” Shapiro and Beckerman wrote in a Morning Consult opinion piece published Thursday.

CTA declined to comment on Trump’s budget, while the Internet Association did not respond to a request for comment.

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