DC Dispatch

T2 Touchpoint — March 7, 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

FY 2019 Budget Request Update: Squashing Debt and Agencies for the Sake of Data?

The Power of the Purse, a recent special report by Government Executive (GovExec), condenses the most recent happenings with President Trump’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget request. The administration’s main goal with this updated request is to reduce the national debt. This plan, which significantly reduces agency presence and federal employment, is designed to lower the proportion of debt in relation to American gross domestic product (GDP). This would, as Budget Director Mick Mulvaney points out in the GovExec report, “improve our long-term fiscal sustainability.”

Fiscal sustainability, as defined by the Trump administration, equals large cuts across all agencies—save for the $716 billion allocated to the Department of Agencies. In fact, Trump’s budget calls for the closure of several agencies, including the Chemical Safety Board and the Economic Development Administration. Such requests were blocked last request round and will likely receive a repeat veto. However, fiscal sustainability can also be read as an increase in data-driven decision-making. A move like this requires the widespread use of shared services—consolidating IT functions into enterprise-wide business units—to reduce economies of scale and streamline government IT.

Policy Pulse

Cryptocurrency Regulation Begins with the States

As the investment in and trading of cryptocurrency (i.e., Bitcoin) becomes more popular, several states have taken measures to close or seek legal action against fraudulent variants of these securities.

  • Texas and North Carolina have sought legal action against BitConnect, a cryptocurrency currently being investigated by the FBI for $4 billion in fraudulent sales. While Texas was able to issue an administrative order and an emergency cease-and-desist order, BitConnect’s business in North Carolina closed before the case did.
  • New Jersey filed a cease and desist against Bitstrade, a cryptocurrency not registered to sell securities in the state.
  • Massachusetts, after Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin warned against cryptocurrency last year, filed administrative complaints against Caviar, a cryptocurrency firm based in the Cayman Islands.

In Galvin’s words, “the present Bitcoin craze [is] chasing the next best thing [which] will more often than not, end in disaster for the average investor.” Mississippi’s Secretary of State furthered this notion, explaining that the boom and bust of these funds “go out of existence really before we catch them.” That said, these states (and others, like New Hampshire and Arizona, who have more optimistic outlooks on this trend), need to have better guidance and regulatory measures to identify legal and illegal cryptocurrency sources, as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is hampered by budgetary constraints to analyze these new investment avenues.

Agency Activities

Coast Guard to Uproot, Modernize IT Systems

Last month, the Coast Guard’s cyber command (CGCYBER) announced its ongoing initiative to upgrade and streamline the branch’s IT infrastructure. This goal, spearheaded by Rear Adm. Kevin Lunday, inches nearer to the Pentagon’s Joint Information Environment (JIE). The JIE is a worldwide IT consolidation effort which, since its unveiling in 2010, has tried to standardize the computing experiences of more than two million active duty and civilian personnel.

The first step toward both the JIE and viewing “cyberspace as an operational domain” is a modernized IT backbone. Lunday has been leading efforts to make the Coast Guard’s IT frameworks more agile. The initial phase, which is nearly complete, involves upgrading branch-wide to the Windows 10 operating system. The second step is a personnel issue: the agency’s “stance in cyberspace” needs to be reinforced by IT-fluent active duty members, reserve officers, and contractors.

Office of American Innovation Seeks Widespread Digitization of Patient Data, Health Records

On behalf of the White House and the Office of American Innovation, Jared Kushner announced a “whole of government” push toward digitizing medical health records at the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference in Las Vegas. Like the Modernizing Government Technology Act (MGTA), this initiative prioritizes interoperability and seamless data sharing and communication. This proves especially important for the healthcare sector, as a 2013 study in the Journal of Patient Safety opines that incomplete health records highly contribute to 400,000 deaths a year. Previous efforts to ensure healthcare system interoperability have failed over the last two decades, particularly in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). To revise this strategy, Kushner announced that representatives from Health and Human Services (HHS), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology would be rolling out their own concurrent interoperability plans.

DC Dispatch