DC Dispatch

T2 Touchpoint — March 20, 2019

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

Trump Administration’s Preliminary Budget Request for FY 2020 Released

The Trump administration has released its budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2020, with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) publishing additional material last week. Science agency budgets will be further detailed through justifications in the coming weeks—the President has already released his justification for the Department of Energy (DOE). The request includes the following agency-specific provisions, some of which continue trends from the FY 2019 administration request.

A week later, the OMB released its supplementary material on information technology (IT) and research and development (R&D) spending to clarify its line items as the budget rollout continues. The budget includes $150 million requested for the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF), and will support the IT functions of mission delivery, infrastructure, security and management, administrative services, and mission support.

The budget request now awaits congressional revision. The House Budget Director spoke of the cuts as rollbacks of increases in previous FYs. More on FY 2020 budget talks as they develop.

Policy Pulse

Congressman Hurd on AI: 5G Networks Are Key

We recently reported that while American R&D spending has increased in recent years, we also found that dominance in certain next-generation technology developments, particularly artificial intelligence (AI), is leading in other countries. Our previous discussion of the Association of University Technology Managers’ (AUTM) remarks on the international AI landscape indicated that the U.S. patent system and R&D grant funding and the federal system may be responsible for such a gap in leadership.

At a recent IBM conference, Texas representative Will Hurd suggested that the lack of American AI innovation is an infrastructural problem. 5G telecommunications and mobile networks, which will eventually replace current 4G ecosystems, are necessary to foster widespread AI R&D. These 5G technology streams will thus need congressional buy-in to implement them. This buy-in also needs to come installed with American democratic ideals, so AI subsystems like facial recognition are used to empower, and not monitor, citizens. As Hurd asserts, “we need to make sure the ethics around the development of this new technology is based on our values.”

IoT Cyber Security Improvement Act Reintroduced

Legislation regarding another next-generation technology, the Internet of Things (IoT), has been relatively low in volume. In December, the SMART IoT Act that passed the House would require the Department of Commerce to review the production and use of IoT devices and report the findings to Congress, as well as summarize any regulations and standards. As of now, IoT regulations are slim as the technology is leading-edge and faces barriers to widespread adoption, including what Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deputy director Scott Tousley called “organizational and technical cultures of continuous improvement.”

Last week, Congress reintroduced the IoT Cyber Security Improvement Act, which never made it to a vote last year. The revised bill, with tweaked definitions and refined scope, would permit the government to only purchase IoT devices from companies that can accept security patches and can also regularly report any vulnerabilities and issue subsequent patches. IoT devices would also be governed under NIST recommendations issued under this bill, which then would inform OMB guidelines for each agency.

A record of the Act’s journey through Congress can be accessed here.

Agency Activities

Quantum Coordination Office Established Under National Quantum Initiative

In December, President Trump signed the National Quantum Initiative (NQI) Act into law. Under the NQI—helmed by Jake Taylor from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)—a National Quantum Coordination Office was to be established to promote NQI funding and public outreach opportunities. This Office, opened earlier this month, aims to establish the goals chartered under the NQI Act. In addition, the Office will facilitate interagency coordination of quantum information science (QIS) activities.

Department of Labor Creates Chief Data Officer Position

In January, President Trump signed the Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act into law. The Act requires agencies to release all non-sensitive data to the public; it will then be stored in OMB-established data inventories with comprehensive metadata and be searchable via a General Services Administration (GSA)-run database. In addition, the Act requires all affected agencies to establish a Chief Data Officer (CDO) position to manage data and coordinate interagency efforts. Each officer will comprise part of a CDO Council to advise the government on open data activities.

The Department of Labor (DOL) has been the first affected agency to establish a CDO position filled by an appointed, non-political employee. The unconfirmed individual will help the DOL create, implement, and oversee a data governance model, and coordinate data-sharing efforts across the agency and with its federal partners.

DC Dispatch