DC Dispatch

T2 Touchpoint — December 12, 2018

Published biweekly as part of the FLC’s DC Perspective news content, T2 Touchpoint gathers updates from inside and around the technology transfer (T2) community. News is collected from agency publications, news sites and DC-central organizations, with original sources, contacts, and links provided in addition to our streamlined synopses. For more information and Touchpoint-related inquiries, please contact dcnews@federallabs.org.

Budget Bulletin

Appropriations Bills from FY 2018 Gridlocked as Government Shutdown Looms

The latest government shutdown watch concerns other appropriations packages that remain to be finalized from fiscal year (FY) 2018. House Republicans filed a stopgap bill to extend the deadline to approve appropriations for several federal agencies—including the Departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, State, Interior, Agriculture (USDA), Treasury, Commerce, Homeland Security (DHS), and Justice—to December 21. The vote to pass these appropriations has been delayed following the death of former President George H.W. Bush, and the two-week extension still requires Democratic approval despite Republican domination of the House.

In addition, the stopgap spending affects funding levels for NASA, the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Geological Survey. If these agencies are unfunded, they will be shut down. Note that agencies with enacted FY appropriations, including the Department of Energy, will not be closed.

The possible shutdown hinges on President Trump’s request for $5 billion to fund the border wall project, which comes from DHS funding. By contrast, Democrats have proposed a comparatively less $1.6 billion. A short update on the pending shutdown will be featured in the next biweekly T2 Touchpoint.

Policy Pulse

Government Shutdown Watch: Inside Several T2-Related Bills Introduced in Congress

As the potential for a shutdown looms, Congress returned to three technology bills that were in varying states of approval during the last FY. A summary of each piece of legislation follows.

  • The Federal CIO Authorization Act—This Act, which passed the House after being introduced in September, restructures the position of federal Chief Information Officer (CIO) as a presidential appointee reporting directly to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). If enacted, the CIO would be ranked as the top civilian tech official responsible for streamlining and consolidating agency-wide information technology (IT) services and operations. One of the Act’s introducers, Will Hurd, also introduced the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF).
  • The Federal Agency Customer Experience Act (FACEA)—In line with one of President Trump’s Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goals, “Improving Customer Experience with Federal Services,” the House also approved this Act, which would require agencies to collect customer feedback on public-facing services such as the USDA’s Farmers.gov Customer Experience Portal. The Senate passed its version of this bill in 2017.
  • The SMART IoT Act—This Act, which just passed the House, would require the Department of Commerce to review the production and use of internet of things (IoT) devices and report the findings to Congress, as well as summarize any regulations and standards related to IoT devices. Currently, regulations are slim. As DHS cybersecurity deputy director Scott Tousley remarked, “The real challenge is not where you start from—the question is do you have an organizational and technical culture of continuous improvement,” as federal application of IoT technology is in its infancy.

The IDEA Act Passes the House by Voice Vote

In May, we reported on the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA), which recently passed the House during the same session featuring the above three bills. The original version of the Act (available here) mandated minimum requirements to improve effective and efficient delivery of digital services in the interest of federal agency website modernization, including digitized government documentation with electronic signature usage. (In addition, customer experience, in the same vein as the FACEA, is given equal footing.) Agencies would have 180 days to a year to finalize their modernization initiatives.

The final version of the passed bill removes the requirement for optional and digitized in-person services (e.g., customer support), but retains the remainder. However, the window for improved digital services has been standardized to a 180-day turnaround time. According to the Software Alliance, the IDEA Act “will make federal agencies more efficient and create a better user experience for the millions of Americans who rely on these resources.”

Agency Activities

White House Launches the Federal Cybersecurity Reskilling Academy

Boosting American education, training, and workforce development in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields has been repeatedly appearing in appropriations and policymaking negotiations. Just this week, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced plans to update the current five-year strategic plan for STEM education programs.

The White House has also announced the first wave of training initiatives to transform nonskilled federal employees for careers in cybersecurity and cyber defense. The Federal Cybersecurity Reskilling Academy, cosponsored by the Department of Education and the CIO Council’s Workforce Committee, will begin training federal employees in cybersecurity certifications starting next March. After applying to join the Academy’s first class of 25 individuals, passing an online assessment, and being selected to complete training by June, successful trainees are expected to transition to the cyber workforce. The second Academy pilot will be launched sometime in the spring to continue the commitment to a 21st-century workforce.

Draft NIST ROI Green Paper Released

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released its draft green paper on the agency’s Return on Investment (ROI) Initiative. We previously reported that the initiative was employed to identify core federal T2 principles and practices to protect and/or modify, as well as approaches to improve efficiency and reduce regulatory burdens to attract private-sector research and development (R&D) investment as part of CAP Goal 14. As we reported in March, this CAP Goal revolves around implementing better T2 best practices to expedite lab-to-market innovations.

Highlights from the paper include establishing regulatory and administrative improvements that favor American technology manufacturing firms and methods, engaging the private sector through more flexible partnership authorities, and strengthening technology entrepreneurship programs.

The draft green paper can be reviewed here. NIST is welcoming feedback until January 9 by email at roi@nist.gov. The final report will be published in February, with implementation of the proposed activities beginning in March.

DC Dispatch