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Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

  • VOA News

President Barack Obama’s final fiscal 2017 budget proposal are displayed by Eric Euland, Republican staff director for Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, on Capitol Hill, Feb. 9, 2016.

U.S. President Barack Obama Tuesday announced a national cybersecurity plan, calling cyberthreats among "the most urgent dangers to America's economic and national security."

The "Cybersecurity National Action Plan" is the administration's attempt to build a broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats. It calls for an increase in spending on cybersecurity across all U.S. government agencies to $19 billion, an increase of 35 percent over last year.

The plan includes a $3 billion fund to "kick-start an overhaul of federal computer systems," Obama wrote in an op-ed published Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal.

Watch: Obama Announces Cybersecurity National Action Plan

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The plan calls for the creation of a new high-level federal position to coordinate cybersecurity across civilian agencies and working with military and intelligence counterparts in tracking down cyber intruders in federal networks. Private-sector businesses have long had positions similar to the one proposed by the administration.

"The nation's cyber adversaries getting more sophisticated every day -- developing new botnets, spyware, malware and ransomware -- we have to be even more nimble and resilient, and stay ahead of these threats," Obama wrote.

'Basic level of online security'

The goal of the cybersecurity plan is to provide “every American a basic level of online security,” he added.

The budget proposal also calls for $62 million to expand efforts to attract and retain qualified cyber professionals working for the government. It would also include more training for the private sector, emphasizing measures such as password and pin authentication to sign onto tax data and government benefits.

Additionally, Obama's budget proposal urges the government reduce the use of Social Security numbers for identification.

Cybersecurity has become a top public issue following several high-profile hacks of private companies, such as the Target retail chain stores, and federal agencies, such as the breach last year of the personal information of 21 million current and retired federal employees held by the Office of Personnel Management.

U.S. Chief Information Officer Tony Scott would supervise the new cybersecurity position inside the Office of Management and Budget. He said today's federal model has every agency, and in some cases sub-agency, "building their cyber defenses pretty much on their own. ... That's just, frankly, a bad model of how to defend against these critical adversaries."

Position already posted

The position of chief information security officer was posted Tuesday, Scott said, and he expects it to be filled in 60 to 90 days.

Jacob Olcott, a former congressional legal adviser on cybersecurity, said, "It's great to have more senior executive-level attention on the issue, but the challenge is whether that person will almost certainly be vested with any actual authorities and so it always kind of boils down to that."

The White House expects broad support for what has not been a partisan issue, but it is unclear whether the Republican-controlled Congress will approve the increase.

Obama also established two groups to respond to cybersecurity.

One, the Federal Privacy Council, created by executive order, aims to connect privacy officials across the government to develop comprehensive guidelines for how personal data is collected and stored. The second, a Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity, would involve congressional and private sector leaders tasked with making recommendations in government cybersecurity for the next decade.

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