TR Daily White House Proposes Boosts for ReConnect, Cyber Spending
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Friday, April 9, 2021

White House Proposes Boosts for ReConnect, Cyber Spending

The Biden administration’s fiscal year 2022 discretionary funding request includes an increase of $65 million over the 2021 appropriation for the Agriculture Department’s Rural e-Connectivity (ReConnect) Program, according to a summary of the request released by the White House today.

Congress budgeted $635 million for the ReConnect program in the year-end consolidated appropriations package (TR Daily, Dec. 22, 2020), which was an increase of $80 million over FY 2020.

"Rural Americans are more than 10 times likelier than urban residents to lack access to quality broadband, with particular challenges for tribal communities. The discretionary request provides an increase of $65 million over the 2021 enacted level for ReConnect, the Rural e-Connectivity Program, which provides a down payment for grants and loans to deploy broadband to unserved areas, prioritizing tribal lands. High-speed internet would serve as an economic equalizer for rural America, while the work of installing broadband would create high-paying union jobs with benefits in rural communities. This investment would build on the funding provided in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021," the summary says.

The budget request also includes "$39 million for advanced communications research at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which would support the development and deployment of broadband and 5G technologies by identifying innovative approaches to spectrum sharing," the summary says.

In addition, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency would receive $2.1 billion in fiscal year 2022, a $110 million increase from the fiscal year 2021 enacted level, if Congress agrees to the Biden administration proposal.

"This funding would allow CISA to enhance its cybersecurity tools, hire highly qualified experts, and obtain support services to protect and defend federal information technology systems. The discretionary request also provides $20 million for a new Cyber Response and Recovery Fund," the budget request said.

"In addition, to support agencies as they modernize, strengthen, and secure antiquated information systems and bolster federal cybersecurity, the discretionary request recommends $500 million for the Technology Modernization Fund," it said. Another $750 million would serve as "a reserve for federal agency information technology enhancements."

"The discretionary request responds, in a variety of ways, to funding challenges precipitated by recent cybersecurity incidents," it added. CISA is currently helping the federal government and other affected entities recover from significant cyber breaches involving software from SolarWinds and Microsoft, and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has indicated that CISA intends to provide more cyber assistance to state and local governments.

"The president’s FY 2022 discretionary funding request will reinforce the basic missions of securing our homeland, including preventing terrorism; securing and managing our borders; repairing the broken immigration system; safeguarding critical infrastructure; and strengthening national preparedness," Mr. Mayorkas said.

The administration’s request also includes funding for the Commerce Department for "additional staff and resources to analyze export control and entity list proposals, enforce related actions, and implement executive actions related to export controls and secure telecommunications," the summary said.

The Commerce Department and other elements of the administration are reviewing ways to restrict the use of untrustworthy foreign technology in U.S. networks, which includes decisions about whether to place companies on the entity list to make it harder for them to buy technology exports from U.S. companies (TR Daily, April 8).

The budget request sent to Congress today is not the formal presidential budget sent annually to Congress, the administration said. That will be sent later this spring.

In a statement, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) said, "A budget is where an administration can set its priorities, and it is clear from President Biden’s initial proposal that his administration’s priorities reflect the real needs of the American people."

Chairman Leahy added, "I look forward to receiving the administration’s full budget in the coming weeks so that Congress can pass a budget resolution and the Senate Appropriations Committee can begin its work of marking up bills. It has been a trying year for all of us. Congress must come together on a bipartisan basis and do the work of the American people by marking up all 12 appropriations bills. When I discussed this budget last night with the White House, I told them I look forward to working with the Administration, and with my dear friend, Vice Chairman [Richard] Shelby [R., Ala.], on completing the fiscal year 2022 appropriations process."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) said, "It is now up to the Congress, the representatives of the American people and the states, to look carefully at this budget request and begin our own appropriations process. I look forward to working with [Appropriations Committee] Chairwoman [Rosa] DeLauro [D., Conn.] and Ranking Member [Kay] Granger [R., Texas] and their staffs to ensure that the House does its job, as it has the past two years under Democratic leadership, to consider appropriation bills well in advance of the fiscal year’s end. With Democrats in control of the House, Senate, and White House, and with our continued focus on seeking bipartisan cooperation, I am hopeful that we can provide Americans and our economy with certainty this year that no one need any longer fear government shutdowns or continuing resolutions driven by partisan dysfunction."

Chairwoman DeLauro said, "Beginning with our budget review hearings that start next week, the House Appropriations Committee will exercise our power of the purse to turn these important proposals into funding legislation that will make government work for the people, not the powerful."

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D., Miss.) noted that the budget request "reflects the Biden Administration’s commitment to improve cybersecurity, invest in researching and developing modern technologies, and better incorporate civil rights and civil liberties principals into everything the Department does. I look forward to working with the Biden Administration to refine and implement these proposals."

In a statement, WifiForward said, "Today, the White House announced its request for additional funding for NTIA to expand spectrum research. WifiForward welcomes this move. We need creative, innovative solutions to ensure American consumers have access to high-speed connectivity and a wide range of advanced technologies. Boosting funding for the Commerce Department will keep attention focused on making essential licensed and unlicensed airwaves work to their maximum potential." —Lynn Stanton, [email protected], and Tom Leithauser, [email protected]

MainStory: Cybersecurity Congress FederalNews BroadbandDeployment WirelessDeployment

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