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Obama's budget blueprint enhances cybersecurity

President Obama's 2010 budget proposal continues to fund Homeland Security's heavily criticized cybersecurity division, but it also boosts such funding for intelligence.

President Obama's proposed 2010 budget includes hundreds of millions of dollars for the Department of Homeland Security's cybersecurity division, programs that have faced significant criticism over the past year.

The budget includes $355 million to support the base operations of the National Cyber Security Division and the efforts of the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative. The money will largely be used to secure the nation's public and private information networks, although $36 million will support ongoing projects to improve surveillance technologies that detect advanced biological threats.

The DHS cybersecurity initiatives have been criticized for poor leadership and for being too reactionary. Earlier this month, Obama appointed Melissa Hathaway, who worked for the director of national intelligence in the Bush administration and was director of an multi-agency "Cyber Task Force," to conduct a two-month review of DHS cybersecurity efforts. Hathaway is conducting her review as part of the White House's National Security Council, indicating authority over cybersecurity efforts may shift to other federal offices.

Earlier this week, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told the House Select Committee on Intelligence that the National Security Agency should have more oversight of cybersecurity (PDF).

"The National Security Agency has the greatest repository of cybertalent," he said. "I think that capability should be harnessed and built on as we're trying to protect more than just our intelligence networks or our military networks (and) as we expand to our federal networks and to our critical infrastructure networks."

Blair acknowledged that there is a great deal of distrust of the NSA because of its warrantless wiretapping program and asked the committee for help in restoring the agency's reputation so it could take on initiatives that go beyond the scope of intelligence, such as cybersecurity.

The president's 2010 budget proposal also indicates the administration's intention to enhance the intelligence community's role in overseeing cybersecurity. Funding for the national intelligence program is not detailed, but that portion of the budget says the government "will take an integrated and holistic approach to address current cybersecurity threats, anticipate future threats, and continue innovative public-private partnerships. These efforts encompass the homeland security, intelligence, law enforcement, military and diplomatic mission areas of the U.S. Government."