The omnibus appropriations bill passed by Congress March 23, 2018, would set aside nearly $400 million in funds across two election cybersecurity initiatives: the pre-existing Election Assistance Commission, as well as a new Election Infrastructure Security Initiative under the Department of Homeland Security.
The EAC was established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002, and serves as an independent, bipartisan body to develop voting system guidelines and act as a national clearinghouse on election administration information.
Under the FY18 omnibus bill, the EAC would receive $380 million to make payments to states “to improve the administration of elections for federal office, including to enhance election technology and make election security improvements.”
Those improvements could include replacing electronic-only voting equipment with a paper-record system; implementing a post-election audit; upgrading election computer systems; training election officials; implementing cyber best practices; and funding security-based election activities.
The EAC would also receive $10.1 million for salaries and expenses, $1.5 million of which would have to be transferred over to the National Institute for Standards and Technology for joint initiatives. The director of NIST will in turn be required to submit an expenditure plan to the EAC director and committees on appropriations in both the House and Senate.
The FY18 appropriations also include over $4 million in funding for a new Election Infrastructure Security Initiative, though little is said about the mission of the EISI.
As a part of that funding, DHS’s National Protection and Programs Directorate will have to brief Congress within 60 days of the appropriations bill’s enactment on its assessment of election infrastructure vulnerabilities and its work with election officials to prevent cyber intrusions.
The FBI will also have an increased role to play in election cybersecurity under the new budget, by investing in counterintelligence and cyber-related investments necessary to help respond to foreign actors that pose an election-related threat. The FBI will have to brief the committee 90 days after the bill’s enactment on its plans for election security issues.
It is unclear how much this funding will impact 2018 elections, as many contests are already underway and the bill has yet to be signed into law. President Donald Trump indicated on Twitter Friday morning that he might veto the bill passed by Congress, because it lacks a protection for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients and contains insufficient funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.