GAO Cybersecurity R&D report urges coordination improvements

According to a new report, the federal government has to do a better job of coordinating research and development on cybersecurity issues.

According to a report released yesterday by the Government Accountability Office, the federal government has to do a better job of coordinating research and development on cybersecurity issues and needs to improve its information sharing and collaboration efforts on the topic.

Most cybersecurity technologies "offer only single-point solutions by addressing individual vulnerabilities," the report stated. "As a result, many researchers have described the use of these types of near-term solutions as being shortsighted. ... Research in cybersecurity technology can help create a broader range of choices and more robust tools for building secure, networked computer systems."

Within the government, numerous agencies conduct R&D into cybersecurity technologies, the agency found, including the departments of Homeland Security, Defense and Energy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation and agencies in the intelligence community, such as the National Security Agency and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Funding for cybersecurity R&D is scattered among all the agencies, as well. The National Science Foundation included about $94 million in its fiscal 2006 budget request for cybersecurity research, education and training. DHS allocated approximately $10 million to the subject in fiscal 2004, $18 million in 2005 and $17 million in 2006. DOD officials told GAO that the department provided about $150 million to its cybersecurity research programs in fiscal 2005.

"For the first time, the [National Information Technology R&D] program ... reported budget information for cybersecurity research separately from other types of research in its supplement to the president's fiscal year 2007 budget," the GAO report stated.

At a policy level, too, there are several layers of responsibility, from the White House's Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, to the Cybersecurity and Information Assurance Working Group, the National Science and Technology Council and its committees on technology, and homeland and national security, to name several.

To assist all these organizations, GAO called on the director of OSTP to establish firm time lines for completing the federal cybersecurity R&D agenda, which was one recommendation in the National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, issued in February 2003.

In addition, the GAO report recommended that OMB issue guidance to agencies on reporting information about federally funded cybersecurity research projects to governmentwide repositories already in place.

Patience Wait is a staff writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.