NIST Presents Research Status on Voting Systems

In response to a request from the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), the National Institute of Standards and Technology conducted research on six specific areas in connection to voting systems. We posted about that request earlier on this blog. The goal of this research was to focus on the state of some very specific technical issues that are affected by the proposed next iteration of the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG). Those issues are:

1. Possible alternatives to the requirement of Software Independence (SI)
2. Possible standards for ballot on demand systems
3. Potential impact of the VVSG on vote by phone systems
4. A feasibility study of the ramifications of the EAC separately testing and certifying components of a voting system, and requirements for interoperability between systems and system components
5. Impact of early voting and vote centers on the VVSG
6. Identification of “goal level requirements” in the VVSG and developing alternatives

You can read the results of that research online (PDF).

Given the focus of USACM comments on the VVSG, we are particularly interested in issues one and four. All areas of research described in the report are important, and will need some kind of resolution prior to the final approval of the next version of the VVSG.

The possible alternatives to Software Independence were end-to-end encryption systems, independent verification, and secure audit ports. The NIST team found that “all require significant research and prototyping before requirements could be written for the VVSG-NI.” NIST staff went a bit further, indicating that another alternative would be to replace the Software Independence requirement for Innovation Class systems with an auditability requirement. Exactly how that would work, and whether it could provide the same level of security as a Software Independence requirement, is unclear.

The NIST response to the feasibility of testing individual components of a voting system goes into significant detail about the challenges of such an approach. The least of these concerns is a shift away from an underlying theme of the VVSG – that a system is certified rather than individual components.

The EAC only recently received this document from NIST staff. It will inform what the Commission decides to do with the VVSG, but when it will decide and what it will decide are not clear at this time.

USACM Applauds Increased Investment in Research

Today President Barack Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This legislation provides billions in funding intended to spur economic growth. A significant portion of the funding is dedicated to research and education investments. Below is USACM’s statement on these provisions:

USACM Says Innovations in Computing Drive Economic Growth and Competitiveness

NEW YORK, — As Congress voted to approve the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, ACM’s Public Policy Committee (USACM) hailed the measure’s renewed commitment to science and technology innovation as a key driver of economic growth in the United States. USACM commended Congress’ intent to transform the economy with expanded investments in basic research and development for several key federal agencies and departments, and pointed to computer science as uniquely positioned to spur economic recovery.

“The computing field has a long history of creating revolutionary technologies that have helped drive U.S. leadership in the world economy,” said Eugene H. Spafford, USACM Chair and Director of the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance at Purdue University. “The computing community can cite concrete examples of how advances in information technology lead to breakthroughs that enable productivity growth and even create whole new industries. This dynamic can lead to an economy running at full capacity, enabling more efficient allocation of goods and services, which, in turn, produces higher quality goods and services.”

Spafford noted that innovation is the key to long-term economic security and renewed technology leadership as well. “Wise investments in science and engineering research as well as in math and science education will create a stronger, more resilient economy and a more highly skilled workforce. And by investing in scientific research facilities, we will be able to create new jobs in a variety of trades and manufacturing while also expanding the horizons of a whole generation of young scientists and engineers,” he added.

USACM pointed to increased investment for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as recipients of funding that will directly support innovation.

Congress Finalizes Massive Boost in Science Funding

Late last night Congress released the first high-level details on the final agreement for the American Recovery and Reinvestment package. (For background, this legislation is essentially a massive funding plan intended to help jump start the American economy during the current fiscal year (FY 2009).) The final legislation reportedly contains a massive boost for several key scientific agencies, including NSF +$3 billion (remember that NSF’s total funding for FY09 is around $6 billion and change), NIST +$580 million and Department of Energy Office of Science +$1.6 billion. This is huge and welcome news to the scientific community that has been making the case that research funding for physical sciences has been flat for a number of years undercutting the innovation ecosystem.

You can view a full summary here and below are the details on the science funding:

“Transform our Economy with Science and Technology:  To secure America’s role as a world leader in a competitive global economy, we are renewing America’s investments in basic research and development, in training students for an innovation economy, and in deploying new technologies into the marketplace.  This will help businesses in every community succeed in a global economy.

Investing in Scientific Research (More than $15 Billion)

  • Provides $3 billion for the National Science Foundation, for basic research in fundamental science and engineering – which spurs discovery and innovation.
  • Provides $1.6 billion for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which funds research in such areas as climate science, biofuels, high-energy physics, nuclear physics and fusion energy sciences – areas crucial to our energy future.
  • Provides $400 million for the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to support high-risk, high-payoff research into energy sources and energy efficiency in collaboration with industry.
  • Provides $580 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, including the Technology Innovation Program and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
  • Provides $8.5 billion for NIH, including expanding good jobs in biomedical research to study diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, and heart disease.
  • Provides $1 billion for NASA, including $400 million to put more scientists to work doing climate change research.
  • Provides $1.5 billion for NIH to renovate university research facilities and help them compete for biomedical research grants.

Make Recovery.Gov Web 2.0 Friendly

All eyes are on one piece of legislation currently being considered by Congress — The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This legislation is essentially a massive funding plan intended to help jump start the American economy during the current fiscal year (FY 2009). We’ve been reporting about the science funding provisions of the Act, which are quite good. Today we turn our attention to an obscure requirement of the Act, which requires a website called “Recovery.gov” to house all of the grant data that would be generated from spending under the act. USACM sent a letter calling for the website’s requirements to include the ability to download complete data sets in machine-readable form.

Continue reading “Make Recovery.Gov Web 2.0 Friendly”

USACM Makes E-Government Recommendations

With the explosion of user-created content on the web, it is clear that the Federal government should take advantage of this trend by adopting policies that promote the reuse of government data. To help achieve this goal, USACM released the following recommendations and statement on enabling open government. (The press release for this statement can be found here.)

ACM U.S. Public Policy Committee (USACM)
Recommendations on Open Government

BACKGROUND

Computing and networking technology has made it easier than ever before for organizations and individuals to share, analyze and understand large bodies of information. Government agencies and legislators have long recognized the value of the Internet, having helped to create it, and share a strong commitment to providing for the information needs of citizens and others.

Government agencies increasingly post information — often for the benefit of individual citizens — on the Internet and through the World Wide Web (WWW). The U.S. Public Policy Committee of the ACM (USACM) applauds ongoing efforts to make these data as accessible as possible to all Americans. However, law, custom and technology have all contributed to diverse and often inconsistent forms of publication for the data provided.

Many Internet users are learning to control their online experience, including combining and analyzing information in innovative ways that go beyond what the data’s original publishers imagined. Individual citizens, companies and organizations have begun to use computers to analyze government data, often creating and sharing tools that allow others to perform their own analyses. This process can be enhanced by government policies that promote data reusability, which often can be achieved through modest technical measures. But today, various parts of governments at all levels have differing and sometimes detrimental policies toward promoting a vibrant landscape of third-party web sites and tools that can enhance the usefulness of government data.

USACM makes the following policy recommendations for data that is already considered public information.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Data published by the government should be in formats and approaches that promote analysis and reuse of that data.
  • Data republished by the government that has been received or stored in a machine-readable format (such as online regulatory filings) should preserve the machine-readability of that data.
  • Information should be posted so as to also be accessible to citizens with limitations and disabilities.
  • Citizens should be able to download complete datasets of regulatory, legislative or other information, or appropriately chosen subsets of that information, when it is published by government.
  • Citizens should be able to directly access government-published datasets using standard methods such as queries via an API (Application Programming Interface).
  • Government bodies publishing data online should always seek to publish using data formats that do not include executable content.
  • Published content should be digitally signed or include attestation of publication/creation date, authenticity, and integrity.

E-Verify Contractor Rule Delayed; Program Could Appear in Stimulus Package

Update – February 17
Reports indicate that there is no E-Verify participation requirement in the stimulus bill that should be signed later today.

Orginial Post: February 4

The E-Verify program, a proposed national electronic employment verification system, continues to stagger toward full implementation. As we noted last fall, some federal contractors and subcontractors were supposed to start participating in the program as of January 15. However, the Bush Administration postponed that compliance date to February 20, in response to litigation from business groups. The basis of the litigation concerns how the rule was developed and implemented (by executive order and federal procurement law), claiming it circumvented federal law. Since the Obama Administration has called for a review of all Bush Administration rules and regulations that had not taken effect by the transition in power, the deadline has effectively been postponed until late May.

Part of the Senate deliberations over the economic stimulus package includes whether or not to require companies that receive money in this bill to participate in E-Verify. While there are references to the program (called the basic pilot) in the bill that passed the House, there are apparently no requirements mandating participation. As the Congress has tried to avoid immigration legislation since a serious effort in the 110th Congress, it remains to be seen whether an immigration related provision like E-Verify would survive.

ACM Washington Update, Vol. 13.1 (February 2, 2009)

CONTENTS

[1] Newsletter Highlights
[2] Economic Stimulus to include Science and Technology
[3] Net Neutrality Connected to Broadband Stimulus
[4] ACM Urges Obama to Include Computer Science As A Core Component of Science and Math Education
[5] Obama Will Make Broadband Part of Economic Recovery
[6] Study Shows Rising Elementary Math Scores and Significant Challenges
[7] House Homeland Security Committee Looks to 2009
[8] CSTA and ACM release report on the lack in Teacher Education in Computer Science
[9] About USACM

[An archive of all previous editions of Washington Update is available at
http://www.acm.org/usacm/update/]
Continue reading “ACM Washington Update, Vol. 13.1 (February 2, 2009)”