Joint directive to double federal cyber spending

A classified joint directive signed Jan. 8 by President Bush has the potential of increasing by several billion dollars a year the federal investment in defense against cyberattacks, according to media and industry reports.

The joint national security and homeland security directive, which has not been released publicly, would expand the intelligence community's role in monitoring Internet traffic and guarding against attacks on federal computer systems. Estimated federal spending for the initiative could be as much as $6 billion a year and $30 billion over five years, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

"We see it as potentially doubling federal investment in cybersecurity," said Richard Colven, vice president of executive programs at research firm Input Inc., in Reston, Va.

This year, the government will spend about $5.7 billion on information security, mostly for protection against hackers and cyberattacks, said Colven and David DeBrandt, director of federal research operations at Input. If the government becomes more aggressive in actively monitoring the Internet and pursuing and disabling cyberattackers, that budget could double, they said.

Although the precise wording of the directive is not publicly known and its mission is not clear, the federal government appears to be moving toward becoming more active in stopping cyberattacks and preventing future attacks, not just passively safeguarding against attacks, said Colven and DeBrandt.

The new initiative is likely to include funding for cybersecurity software and support along with legal and investigative assistance. It also may pay for conventional military activity to pursue wrongdoers, they said. A portion of the funding may help support the Air Force's new Cyber Command, for example.

"Cybersecurity is a problem that requires a solution beyond an infrastructure fix," Colven said. "There are some very committed bad actors. The federal government is trying to mitigate the risk, but they also may be going proactive."

The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post disclosed the existence of the classified initiative this week; however, members of Congress said they have not received much information.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who chairs the Committee on Homeland Security, has asked for more information about the initiative, said spokesman Adam Comis. Thompson cannot confirm the scope of the proposed cyberinitiative or its likely cost, Comis added.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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