Sequestration Will Hurt Cybersecurity – Or Not

Sue Marquette Poremba

Because sequestration will have a direct impact on several close family members, I am well familiar with the concerns of how the budget cuts could affect national security. However, when I ask about cybersecurity, no one seems to have an answer. For example, one relative mentioned before the Christmas holiday that cybersecurity was a department priority this year. Today, the priority is figuring out where the funds will come from to save jobs; cybersecurity is now an afterthought.

So, I thought I’d see what was being said elsewhere about cybersecurity in this age of sequestration, and I’m no more clear on an answer than I was when I first started looking.

According to InformationWeek, IT services overall will likely see a setback, and anything that affects IT will trickle down to cybersecurity:

Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel, in interview with InformationWeek Government prior to sequestration taking effect, warned that IT spending cuts could cause progress in federal IT implementation and reform to "stagnate" and negatively impact cybersecurity.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned that sequestration will leave the critical infrastructure vulnerable to attacks and would roll back cybersecurity protections that have already been put in place.

But some outlets are reporting that cybersecurity might be one of the areas in defense and national security functions that is spared the budget ax. According to Politico, some in Washington say that Congress and the White House recognize the threats that loom and will step up to protect cybersecurity funding.  The website Main Justice quoted one of those insiders, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel, who said security programs have a high priority. But (there’s always a but) there will probably be delays in implementing the regulations in the new Executive Order. And there will be spending cuts – they just aren’t expected to be as catastrophic as other cuts.

What is my conclusion? That the resolution is somewhere in the middle. I think efforts will be made to protect the critical infrastructure but cybersecurity funding will fall short in other areas. Delaying the new actions from the Executive Order could hurt because it comes at a time when security needs to be made stronger, not allowed to languish. In the end, I hope Daniel is right. That the cuts that do come aren’t catastrophic.

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