As Democrats in the House and Senate reconcile differences on the slimmed-down $1.75 trillion budget reconciliation bill that funds “soft” infrastructure priorities, some tech and cyber-related provisions have fallen out of the bill or had their funding levels slashed, while others made new appearances into the latest draft of the bill, which has been cut down from its original $3.5 trillion price tag.

The House Rules Committee released an updated draft of the text of the bill, and a section-by-section summary of the legislation, now known as the Build Back Better Act (BBB) Oct. 28, as Democrats work towards a final resolution of the legislation.

Here’s the latest look at where things stand in the slimmed-down bill from a tech perspective.

What’s In and What’s Out: Tech Edition

Many of the tech provisions in the first draft of the bill survived, though mostly at smaller funding levels.

The biggest new tech addition to the bill comes in the form of a $4.75 billion investment in the modernization of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) business systems.

The largest casualty of the slimmed-down bill appears to be the $3.35 billion IT modernization investment proposed by the House Oversight and Reform Committee. That proposal included an additional $1 billion for funding for the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF).

While the $3.35 billion for IT modernization didn’t make the cut, the House Oversight portion of the bill now includes $975 million for the General Services Administration to support emerging technologies aimed toward environmental sustainability programs. The new print also cuts the committee’s initial $12 billion investment towards electrifying the Federal vehicle fleet to $5.985 billion to electrify the United States Postal Service vehicle fleet.

The Energy and Commerce Committee also saw cuts made to funding levels for its proposed investments, but overall a variety of tech-related investments survived. The $1.75 trillion version of the BBB includes $5 billion for supply chain resiliency – down from $10 billion.

Also cut were proposed Next Generation 9-1-1 and Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) investments. Funding levels to transition the nation to Next Generation 9-1-1 systems now stand at $470 million for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), down from $10 billion. The bill also would appropriate $20 million for the NTIA to administer grants related to the Next Generation 9-1-1 program and $9 million for the Next Generation 9-1-1 cybersecurity center; the latter was appropriated $80 million in the first draft.

Additional funding for the ECF was cut from $4 billion to $300 million. The latest print of the bill also still creates a “Future of Telecommunications Council” aimed at examining the future of 6G telecommunications, but with a $7 million funding level, down from $10 billion in the first draft.

Additionally, the Energy and Commerce print includes additional investments in broadband connectivity. The bill would give $475 million to the NTIA for connected device grants, with another $20 million to administer the program and $5 million for outreach.

The $1.75 trillion BBB also gives NTIA $295 million to create a pilot program to invest in projects from public-private partnerships that are aimed at increasing affordable broadband. The new draft also gives $100 million to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for broadband affordability outreach, and $500 million to the Federal Trade Commission to create a data security bureau.

The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology was the only print that had previously established funding levels boosted, as the new print gives $1.52 billion to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for cybersecurity and emerging tech research, up from $1.195 in the original print. The new draft also gives NIST an additional $25 million for research security activities.

The Homeland Security Committee’s print looks the most different from a cybersecurity perspective. The original print gave the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) $856 million for various cybersecurity activities. The newest draft of the BBB gives CISA $400 million for cybersecurity activities and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) $190 million for cyber activities, and the Office of the Secretary of Homeland Security $500 million for the Office of Chief Readiness Support Officer.

The CISA funding breaks down as follows:

  • $100 million, not in the original print, for improving Federal information systems;
  • $100 million to increase cyber awareness;
  • $50 million for the industrial control system (ICS) cybersecurity program CyberSentry;
  • $50 million for secure cloud architecture;
  • $50 million for research operation technology and ICS;
  • $35 million for a Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center; and
  • $15 million for a cyber upskilling and training program

The FEMA funding includes $80 million for state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) government cybersecurity training and recruitment grants and another $20 million for SLTT online services grants. The agency is also responsible for two nonprofit security grants; one appropriated $50 million and administered through the State Homeland Security Grant Program and the other appropriated $40 million.

What’s Next

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., acknowledged in a Dear Colleague letter Oct. 28 that the timing to consider the BBB, as well as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF) – has been pushed again.

Democrats initially hoped to pass both bills by the end of September, when a key transportation plan was set to run out of funding. That timeline was then pushed to October, as Democrats worked out differences in opinion on funding levels for the reconciliation package, eventually cutting their initial $3.5 trillion plan in half.

As progressives want a vote on the BBB in the Senate before advancing the BIF in the House, the caucus has largely stood its ground, leading to additional legislation to keep the vital program funded until Dec. 3. That is shaping up to be an extremely consequential deadline, as the latest continuing resolution and the nation’s debt limit are scheduled to expire the same day.

While the current BBB is much closer to a finished product than the first draft, Democrats on the Hill are still making final negotiations to the package, and tech priorities may still end up added or funding levels changed before it passes either chamber.

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.
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