Thursday, January 12, 2017

FEGA Announces Cybersecurity Research Grants

Today at a joint news conference the DHS Federal Emergency Grant Administration (FEGA) and the Security and Applied Science (SAS) Directorate announced the funding of Cybersecurity Applied Research (CSAR) program for the coming year. The CSAR program was started in 2016 and Congress has been adding directed research programs to it ever since.

Isham M. Gelt started off the press conference by saying that he was proud to announce that the funding for the CSAR program had once again withstood calls for reducing the amount of money available in the program. He reported that the funding has remained stable over the last five years.

Nelson E. R. Donally then announced that in addition to the funding that the CSAR program had been providing to numerous educational institutions for general cybersecurity research and training, that Congress had added for this fiscal year a number of new research requirements for cybersecurity research specifically addressing electronic control system security (ECSS). He announced that educational institutions could apply for grant money for the following new ECSS programs:

• Encryption for communications in supervisory control and data analysis (SCADA) applications;
• Isolation of ECS from data systems;
• Remote data logging of changes in programable logic controllers (PLC);
• Easing data communication between ECS and enterprise data systems; and
• Providing remote access to ECS operations from smart phones.

Donally remarked that Congress was very clear about the requirements for the encryption programs that would be used by ECS systems. The systems had to be based upon a 125-bit key and copies of all encryption keys for ECS had to be on file with the encryption office of ECS-CERT.

Gelt announced that since this was the first year that FEGA would be issuing ECSS grants under the CSAR program the size of the initial grants had been doubled to $20,000 and a total of ten grants would be made this year. When asked if grants had been larger earlier in the CSAR program, Gelt reminded the reporters that Congress had been adding to the CSAR coverage mandate for some time without any increases in the amount of money in the program. The addition of the ECSS program meant that other CSAR grants had been reduced to $9,000 and the total number of grants provided under the program had been reduced by 10.

Donally also announced that due to the decrease in the number of university programs that had been applying for CSAR grants that SAS was expanding the application pool to two-year technical colleges with computer technology programs. Last year over $100,000 in available grant money had been returned to the federal treasury due to the lack of applications.