Congressional appropriators again slapped down a Federal Emergency Management Agency attempt to consolidate 16 of its grant programs into a single program known as the National Preparedness Grant Program – but state and local grants appropriations overall are robust.
Funding for the National Institute of Standards and Technology this fiscal year under the omnibus federal funding bill signed into law by President Obama Jan. 17 will be better than in recent years past. The compromise funding bill (H.R. 3547) appropriates $850 million for NIST – not as much as the Commerce Department bureau's $928.3 million request, but $41 million above the enacted fiscal 2013 level, and well more than the $782.4 million it received in fiscal 2012.
Veterans Affairs Department information technology appropriations for the current fiscal year are set to reach $3.7 billion, an amount that exceeds the departmental request of $3.68 billion.
The omnibus appropriations bill likely to fund federal agencies for the remainder of the fiscal year includes $447 million for Cyber Command, states a House Appropriations Committee summary (.pdf)....
The omnibus appropriations bill unveiled Monday includes a 1 percent pay increase to some federal workers and restores full pensions to some working age military retirees. The Postal Service would continue delivering mail six days a week under a provision in the bill. It also blocks the agency from closing small and rural post offices in fiscal 2014.
Legislation proposed by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) would make it an explicit felony to damage critical infrastructure systems or information, with violators subject to three to 20 years imprisonment. Leahy's bill comes as the House prepares to vote Friday on two healthcare data related bills that both passed through the House Rules Committee on Wednesday.
With Congress back in session after the winter break, legislators are nearing agreement on an omnibus appropriations bill for the budget passed in December, but still need to raise the debt limit before it hits its ceiling in February.
This year's national defense authorization act, signed into law by President Obama Dec. 26, includes Senate Armed Services Committee language requiring development of a new cyber attack deterrence policy. The concept of cyber deterrence can be controversial, with critics worried that genuine cyber attacks get conflated with data theft and that established mechanisms for deterrence such as broadcasting offensive capabilities could backfire on the United States.
Current federal workers wouldn't see much change under the framework budget leaders proposed Tuesday for the next two fiscal years, but new hires would see more of their paychecks going to pension contributions. Federal employees hired on or after Jan. 1, 2014 would pay 4.4 percent of their salary toward retirement benefits, a summary (.pdf) of the budget bill (H.J. Res. 59) says. Currently, feds pay 3.1 percent into pensions.
The quality of congressional investigations rose after Watergate, with more of them having a great deal of impact, a Dec. 4 Brookings Institution paper by New York University professor Paul Light says.