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Clinton Seeks More Spending for Computer Security

 Clinton Seeks More Spending for Computer Security

Posted at 4:59 p.m. PST Friday, January 7, 2000 BY RANDALL MIKKELSEN WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Clinton on Friday proposed boosting government spending on computer security by some $280 million as part of a long-term plan to guard against threats ranging from hackers to terrorists.

Clinton's plan to defend America's ``information infrastructure,'' includes a $160 million increase in spending on computer security research, college scholarships for students who agree to work for the government as security specialists and plans to share public and private research.

``Today our critical systems, from power structures to air traffic control, are connected and run by computers. We must make those systems more secure so that America can be more secure,'' Clinton said in a White House appearance.

Potential threats ranged from the hobbyist-hacker to countries or terrorists attacking U.S. computer systems to cripple the economy, said Richard Clarke, head of counterterrorism for the U.S. National Security Council.

``We are aware now, over the course of the last two years, that several other nations have developed offensive information warfare units, organizations, tactics, doctrine and capability,'' Clarke told reporters.

``That doesn't mean they're going to use them, but it means that they're developing them, they're getting better all the time,'' he said. He did not identify any of the countries that had developed cyber-warfare capabilities.

Republicans involved in the issue generally welcomed the plan, but said it came late and fell short in some areas. The White House had targeted a May 1999 deadline, and officials said on Friday they needed more time to do the job right.

``After repeated urging, the administration has finally released a national plan ... this will be a difficult and expensive process, but it is a vital one and we must increase our efforts,'' said Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, chair of a Senate subcommittee on terrorism.

House Commerce Committee Chairman Tom Bliley of Virginia said the plan lacked sufficient steps to combat immediate security shortfalls.


Clinton will request $2.03 billion for computer security in his 2001 budget request next month, up from $1.75 billion in 2000, White House Chief of Staff John Podesta told reporters.

Included are boosts in research spending on information security to $621 million from $461 million, and $91 million in new initiatives. Other related increases brought the total spending increase next year to $280 million, officials said.

Clinton proposed offering college scholarships to students in the field of computer security in exchange for their government service afterward.

Starting pay for such recruits, who are in high demand in the private sector, may need to be sharply increased from existing government pay scales, Clarke said.

Clinton also proposed an institute to fund research in areas not pursued now by either the public or private sector.

The institute, he said, ``will bring to bear the finest computer scientists and engineers from the private sector, from universities and from other research facilities to find ways to close these gaps.''

The plan also proposed the development of a government-wide ''burglar alarm'' to detect unauthorized tampering with computers and protect government-stored information on individuals.


Clinton said the huge federal project to prepare computers for the rollover to 2000 underscored ``how really interconnected we all are.''

``We live in an age when one person sitting at one computer can come up with an idea, travel through cyberspace, and take humanity to new heights. Yet someone can sit at the same computer, hack into a computer system, and potentially paralyze a company, a city or a government,'' he said.

Clinton added he would work to ensure that the privacy rights of Americans were not compromised.