Money flows for technology, cybersecurity in new Defense Department budget

The new budget provides expansion and pilot projects for IT and cybersecurity as Defense Department adopts new technology.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Congress had approved the addition of 10 new programs in DoD’s “colorless” software appropriation pilot program. Although the department requested 10 new programs, Congress only approved seven, each of which had been authorized in previous years.

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The newly-passed omnibus appropriations bill adds funding for the Defense Department’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) in an effort to help small business owners trying to meet compliance standards. The Defense portion budget provides $6 million toward CMMC compliance for cybersecurity in manufacturing. Under Defense-wide procurement, another $20 million goes to increase small business and academia compliance with CMMC.

Government officials have long held concerns that complying with CMMC can prove difficult for small businesses already challenged by competing with their larger competitors for federal dollars.

DoD came out with an interim acquisition rule implementing CMMC in 2020 with a plan to eventually certify thousands of contractors throughout the defense industrial base. The CMMC Accreditation Body set up the first third party assessment organization (C3PAO) in 2021. However, contractors were concerned about the program which they say overly complicates the process and it is unclear how C3PAOs should prepare for an assessment and what the arrangement should be with the contractors who need their services.

Currently the Cyber Accreditation Body has a draft in the works to offer guidance on how the C3PAO program should work. The “CMMC Assessment Process” document still hasn’t reached its final form and isn’t expected to be finished until sometime next year.

Funding for the CMMC program comes with an overall increase for Defensewide Science and Technology Manufacturing Program. The manufacturing program requested $256.1 million, it will get $747.4 million.

Expanding cybersecurity reached into numerous DoD programs and will allow for new commands and expansions of old ones.

Joint cyber mission forces would get a boost with $178 million in the new budget. The funding came after an announcement Dec. 19 that the Cyber National Mission Force officially stood up as a unified subordinate command in DoD.

CNMF will support Cyber Command on national priorities such as election security, ransomware, cyber espionage and other crisis and contingency operations.

The different service branches all have new allotments for cyber mission forces as they seek to increase their cybersecurity stances. The Army got the $178 million they asked for to fund their joint cyber mission forces. The Marine Corps got $94 million and the Air Force got $191.7 million after requesting 186.7 million for joint cyber mission force programs. Money also went to joint programs like CYBERCOM and cyber operations technology support.

Meanwhile, appropriators allowed DoD to continue with a new, experimental way to fund software development efforts, but with a note of caution.

As part of its 2023 budget proposal, the department asked Congress to allow it to add ten new programs to the Software and Digital Technology Pilot Program, a new budget line that eliminates “color of money” restrictions from DoD’s software programs.

However, lawmakers denied each of the new requests while allowing the department to continue with seven others Congress had already approved over the past two years. In an explanatory statement accompanying the bill, appropriators said they want to see evidence that the program is meeting its stated goal of streamlining development before they approve additional programs for the newly-dubbed “budget activity 08.”

“Reports received to date indicate that the department is still implementing methods to capture the appropriate data that would allow an objective analysis for how a single budget activity improves the performance of software pilot programs,” lawmakers wrote.

They also cautioned Defense officials not to request more additions to the colorless money pilot in next year’s budget until it’s provided more data on results from the new funding approach.

“The agreement again acknowledges the department s rationale regarding the incremental technical challenges posed by modern software development practices, including implementing technical fixes to existing code, addressing cyber vulnerabilities and integrating incrementally developed new capabilities,” they wrote. “However, the Congress maintains its position that objective quantitative and qualitative evidence is required to evaluate the ongoing approved pilot programs prior to considering an expansion of programs funded under BA 08.”


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