A House panel that oversees funding for the Department of Homeland Security is recommending a boost in spending on a voluntary cybersecurity program that allows the government to monitor private security networks for malicious threats.

The budget recommendation would add $95.5 million to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) request for the CyberSentry and other voluntary efforts that are focused on detecting cyber threats on the networks of critical infrastructure providers. CISA does through the use of existing commercial sensors that are installed on the private networks.

“Funds will be used for additional personnel; the procurement and installation of sensors; system integration support; and contractor support for coordinating with participating organizations,” the House Appropriations Homeland Security (HAC-HS) subcommittee says in its report accompanying its budget recommendations for DHS in fiscal year 2022. The full committee meets Tuesday morning to markup the bill, which eventually will have to be reconciled with the recommendations of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which has yet to begin considering its funding measures for the federal government.

CyberSentry is currently managed by CISA as a pilot program. DHS requested just over $8 million for the program in FY ’22.

Eric Goldstein, the head of CISA’s Cybersecurity Division, told a House Homeland Security Cybersecurity subcommittee in June that his agency lacks visibility into private sector networks, which may need CISA’s help in a number of areas ranging from best practices and vulnerability scans to threat hunting and remediation.

Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the cyber panel, said at the time she is working on legislation that would codify the CyberSentry program, which would elevate its status beyond a pilot effort (Defense Daily, June 15).

The HAC-HS report says its proposed funding increase is “for CyberSentry and other efforts focused on the voluntary threat detection by critical infrastructure operators through the placement of sensors at the boundary layer between operational technology and information technology systems.”

CISA has authorities to provide cybersecurity protection to federal civilian agencies but not with the private sector except on a voluntary basis.

The appropriations panel is also recommending a $24 million to CISA’s budget request for threat hunting services with federal civilian agencies and non-federal networks, which includes critical infrastructures and state, local, tribal and territorial governments. About 85 percent of critical infrastructure in the U.S. is owned and operated by the private sector.

“CISA is encouraged to establish emulation capabilities to better understand complex adversaries, identify breaches earlier in a campaign, and otherwise disrupt malign activity more quickly once a compromise is uncovered,” the HAC-HS report says. “This additional funding is also intended to bolster CISA’s capacity to quickly issue proactive guidance based on intelligence and learned behaviors after the positive identification of a compromise.”

Overall, for CISA in FY ’22, the Biden administration is seeking $2.1 billion and the HAC-HS panel recommends $2.4 billion. Congress earlier this year provided CISA with $650 million as part of a large stimulus bill.