Tuesday, February 24, 2015

CSE 2015-16 budget $538 million

The Main Estimates for fiscal year 2015-2016, which were tabled in parliament today, show that CSE's budget is projected to be $538 million in the coming year.

The agency's 2015-16 budget is down significantly from its 2014-15 budget, but the difference is almost entirely due to the one-time $300-million payment made to the builders of CSE's new headquarters complex on its completion last year. As the Main Estimates note, "Following delivery of CSE's new facility in 2014–15 and its associated one-time contract costs, [the 2015-16 budget will feature] a combined reduction in funding of $306.7 million for operating and accommodations".

CSE's 2014-15 budget authority currently stands at $849 million, although it is possible that not all of that sum will be spent by the end of the fiscal year. If the $306.7 million reduction is excluded, the current budget and the coming budget are almost identical, and the amount that is actually spent in the coming year could well be higher.

Although CSE's budget transparency declined significantly after it became a stand-alone agency in 2011, one point of new information did begin to be regularly reported by the government: the breakdown in CSE's budget between its two main activities, the SIGINT program and the Information Technology Security (ITS) program.

According to the Main Estimates, in 2015-16 the SIGINT program will account for $388 million, or 72%, of CSE's budget, while the ITS program will account for $150 million, or 28%.

For comparison, here is the breakdown in previous years:

2014-15: 72/28
2013-14: 68/32
2012-13: 69/31

These numbers suggest that, despite increasing concern about Canada's vulnerability to cyberattacks and cyberespionage, CSE's SIGINT program has been growing faster than the ITS program in recent years. However, such numbers are likely to fluctuate quite significantly from year to year as capital spending related to specific projects starts and stops, so it is probably too early to draw conclusions about overall trends.

The ITS program (then known as COMSEC) accounted for only about 20% of CSE personnel in the mid-1970s, whereas the figure now is probably about 25%, so the long-term trend has been a gradual increase in the relative size of the ITS program.

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