Trump promised to bolster cyber defence on the campaign trail
Trump promised to bolster cyber defence on the campaign trail

Donald Trump's first federal budget puts forward US $1.5 billion (£1.2 billion) for cyber-security to protect the federal government and US critical infrastructure. The sum is to be allotted to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the cabinet-level department of the United States government with responsibility for public security.

The pledge was announced on Thursday in a budget blueprint entitled America First - A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again. The budget intends to allow the DHS to share more threat intelligence with federal agencies and the private sector, “through a suite of advanced cyber security tools and more assertive defense of Government networks”.

The United States Homeland Security Advisor, Tom Bossert, told a conference on Wednesday that under the new budget, departments would be held accountable for their own cyber-security

Included in the budget are a number of promises to strengthen the cyber-security of government departments. The Department of The Treasury, for example, will invest “in a Department-wide plan to strategically enhance existing security systems and preempt fragmentation of information technology management across the bureaus, positioning Treasury to anticipate and nimbly respond in the event of a cyberattack.”

NASA, the US armed forces and the Department of Justice are also due to have their cyber-security capabilities strengthened.

Trump promised to harden the nation's defences in cyberspace while campaigning for the presidency and has been disparaging about the state of US preparedness in the face of cyber-threats. He told David E. Sanger of the New York Times, “We're so obsolete in cyber. We're the ones that sort of were very much involved with the creation, but we're so obsolete, we just seem to be toyed with by so many different countries.”

Many might quarrel with that analysis but a recently released report by the US Defense Science Board, commissioned under the Obama administration, expresses concern about North Korea attacks against the US electrical grid. Included in the budget is a promise to help “harden and evolve critical grid infrastructure that the American people and the economy rely upon”.

The US federal government has been the subject of a number of large breaches, which exposed the information of federal employees to the public. The most famous is perhaps the 2015 Office of Personnel Management data breach in which the detailed  personal information of an estimated 21.5 million people, many of whom were government employees, were made off with. Fingers quickly pointed towards a Chinese actor as behind the breach. Trump referred to the breach in light of allegations that he was aided to office by Russian hackers.

The New York Times quoted him referencing the breach, saying, “How come nobody even talks about that? This is a political witch hunt.”

Indeed, allegations of hacking have swarmed Trump's short presidency.  It was not long after WikiLeaks hosted a massive leak, taken from inside the Democratic National Committee in the heat of an already spicy presidential campaign, that security experts and intelligence officials squarely blamed Russia.

The conclusions of a report later compiled and endorsed by the US intelligence community were unambiguous: The Russian government hacked into The Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and handed the information to WikiLeaks, all with the intention of getting Donald Trump elected.

The Trump team initially deflected the conclusions of the report that he was the beneficiary of a Kremlin-orchestrated campaign to manipulate the American democratic process.

Trump eventually acknowledged the role of a foreign government in a statement. He told the public that "Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organisations including the Democrat[ic] National Committee."