US spending bill to avert federal agency shutdown made public

23 Mar 18

A US spending bill has been drawn up, which sets out $1.3trn to fund the government through to September.

If passed by the House of Representatives and Senate by a Friday midnight deadline, the bill would avert the shutdown of federal agencies and programmes beginning this weekend, when current funds expire.

An additional $80bn in national defence spending was also included as well as nearly $1.6bn for border security this year, the largest increase in defence spending in 15 years.

President Donald Trump originally wanted $25bn included in the bill to fund construction of his US-Mexico wall, but negotiations fell through.

The spending bill also included $380m to help protect the country’s voting system from cyber attacks.

This is the Congress’ first move to bolster election security following the 2016 presidential campaign, which has been dogged by allegations of Russian meddling.

The funding will give some states grants to help them buy more secure voting machines, conduct post-election audits and improve election cyber security training.

The bill also includes a $307m increase for the FBI’s budget, which has been said to be used in part for counter-intelligence efforts to protect against Russia cyber attacks.

In recent weeks, intelligence officials have repeatedly warned that the midterm elections vote in November could have been targeted by Russia or others seeking to disrupt the process.

It is not clear when the funding would be made available or if it would be delivered prior to the 2018 midterm elections.

A number of states in the US have already taken some steps towards improving the election process, including purchasing more secure equipment, expanding the use of paper ballots and improving cyber training, according to groups that track election security in the country.

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