WASHINGTON (08/21/2000) - Citing growing risk to the country from both cyber and physical threats, Clinton administration officials say they are disappointed that U.S. Congress is shooting down plans to fund new and existing programs that would help agencies counter such threats. Funding for counterterrorism and critical infrastructure protection programs often reaches beyond the agencies to which money is assigned, officials said. Although that is good for agencies, it makes it more difficult for congressional appropriators to understand how the programs fit into their jurisdictions.
"People need to recognize that they need to go beyond their narrow interests to the national interest," said Joshua Gotbaum, executive associate director and controller of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. Several initiatives require one agency to do something that will benefit many others, he said.
For example, $31 million targeted for the U.S. Department of Justice to train local police and fire departments to respond to terrorist acts will allow for better protection of every agency's offices across the country. And the administration is requesting $5 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology to form a team of computer security experts supporting every agency.
Overall, the administration seeks more than $200 million in new and continuing initiatives. But because the money will not benefit a single agency under a single appropriations committee, appropriators may not approve the funding, Gotbaum said.
An official on the House Appropriations Committee, however, said there simply is not enough money to supply extra funding on existing initiatives, much less start new programs.
"[The administration] had a lot of different initiatives that we just couldn't afford," said Elizabeth Morra, a spokeswoman for the committee. "That was the first prerogative of this committee, to fund existing programs."
For some programs, it comes down to a question of which agency should perform which duty. The administration wants to move the terrorism response training program from the Defense Department to the Justice Department and the U.S.
Federal Bureau of Investigation. However, lawmakers say that program will only affect about 120 cities, and the House is already providing $152 million for similar Justice programs that will aid all cities, Morra said.
Other programs have not received funding, such as the NIST expert review team, because they did not go through the regular authorization and appropriations process, according to Morra.
The National Security Council's Office of Transnational Threats, which oversees interagency coordination in those areas, has been working with OMB on many of the initiatives proposed for fiscal 2001. One of the office's priorities for the next few months will be persuading Congress to understand the benefits they will bring to agencies and citizens.
"We're continuing to work with Congress to get the funding for the cross- cutting initiatives because, while less than 5 percent of all our funding, [they] have significant advantages for all agencies that will exponentially increase the investment in their own information security," said Mark Montgomery, director of transnational threats at NSC.
Officials hope that when the appropriations bills go to a conference committee, funding will be filled. "We're not prepared to give up on this; we think this is quite important," Gotbaum said.