Before you get too excited about this week’s news …

Thoughts on this week’s news, so far. Congress put the pedal to the metal for 2016 and 2017 federal spending. What did Northrop Grumman really win with the bomber deal? The Senate passes a cybersecurity bill.

On the budget: In adopting a two-year resolution, Congress and the administration jettison sequestration cuts and load on both defense and civilian spending. Both sides got a lot of what they wanted, and lot they didn’t want. Nobody gave up anything.

A couple of other things are also true. One, the resulting discretionary budget is lower than it would have been if it kept to the arc it was on before sequestration in 2011.  The purported savings are mostly in the future, which means they won’t happen.  On the other hand, the deal would stave off a big bump in Medicare premiums. Plus, with a Social Security payroll tax gimmick, it diverts more money to prevent insolvency of the disability trust fund. But it doesn’t fundamentally approach the kinds of reforms needed to the so-called non-discretionary parts of the budget that are the real drivers of future federal insolvency.

As things stand now, the agreement doesn’t absolve Congress from passing funding bills. The Dec. 11 deadline remains. All in all, the deal is better than nothing, but not necessarily good. Another can-kicker.

Will the Air Force eventually take possession of 100 new networked bombers to replace its B-1, B-2 and B-52 fleet? The $20 billion deal to Northrop Grumman is just the beginning of the beginning. (One day in and no protest yet from the Boeing-Lockheed team). Under it, in theory at least, Northrop will deliver the first 21 of the aircraft so they can enter service  2025. But you know how these things tend to do in reality.

Jim McAleese, one of the smartest and most diligent Defense budget analysts, notes the deal neither surprised the investment community nor caused it to dance over the win. That’s because the real meat of the program, north of $350 billion in full lifecycle costs, is at least six years off. Which, given the history of such programs, could mean a decade and $1 trillion.

This will be a real test of whether the Pentagon can maintain the program with steady requirements, a reliable schedule of milestones kept by the contractor and spending close to what it promised. The histories of the B-1 and B-2 aren’t promising. Nor are those of the F-22 Raptor and, apparently, the new KC-46 tanker. That’s built on an existing airframe and it’s late.

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act is already controversial. The privacy crowd doesn’t like it, nor do some of the technology companies.  The bill still has to go to conference with the House and then be found acceptable by the White House. Should it become law, companies, though, would have to be careful about when they share data, what data they share and with whom they share it. Privacy advocates have a point. Personally identifiable information can become wound up with cyber threat data, and so it has to be handled carefully and with the right intent.

The House has the opportunity to add some of the provisions the Senate rejected in its version, such as one to keep more of the shared information secret. But the bigger question is whether the bill will actually improve cybersecurity. That depends on whether companies elect to share their data. Despite liability limitations in the bill, consumer companies are still going to be wary of the Federal Trade Commission. To some of them, it looks as if, when they go to Homeland Security with breach information, the FTC is hiding behind the door with a club in its hand.

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