President Obama Addresses the National Academies

On Monday, President Obama spoke before the National Academies during the National Academy of Sciences’ Annual meeting. Both audio and video of the address are available from the Academies, and from the White House. A transcript can be found on

The address was noteworthy in part because he was only the fourth sitting President to address the Academy’s annual meeting since it was chartered in 1863. It was also noteworthy for the policy goals stated in the address. They include:
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Policy Highlights from Communications of the ACM – April 2009 (Vol. 52, No. 4)

Items in the April issue of Communications of the ACM that have policy relevance. Remember, much of the material in CACM is considered premium content. You will need to be a member of ACM or a subscriber to CACM in order to access this material online.


IT Ecosystem in Peril (full article), Alan Joch

A summary of the findings and consequences of The National Academies’ report (from January of this year) on the impacts of changes in the Information Technology R&D Ecosystem. In addition to research funding, the infrastructure that supports information technology research and development in the United States.
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President Obama Announces New PCAST Members

Yesterday President Obama announced the full membership of his President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST). This is an advisory body that works with the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to provide advice to the President. More than a few of the new members have previous government experience. There will be three co-chairs of PCAST: John Holdren, Director of the OSTP, Harold Varmus, President and CEO of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and Eric Lander, Director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard (and part of the biology faculty of each university). While there is a greater emphasis on life science fields in the background of this PCAST, there are still members with computing experience:

Craig Mundie is the Chief Research and Strategy Officer at Microsoft
William Press is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Texas
Eric Schmidt is the Chief Executive Officer of Google

The other members of PCAST are:
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Obama Administration Appoints a Chief Technology Officer

One of the Administration’s campaign promises was to create the position of Chief Technology Officer. While the specific job description was vague during the campaign, the general idea was for this office to encourage more effective use of technology across government. After appointing a Chief Information Officer – Vivek Kundra – the President selected Aneesh Chopra, Secretary of Technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia. As Chief Technology Officer, Mr. Chopra will serve as both an Assistant to the President and as Associate Director for Technology at the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The second position will require Senate confirmation, but Mr. Chopra can start in the first position once he ties up his responsibilities with Virginia.

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of April 27

April 28

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on cybersecurity.
10 a.m., 342 Dirksen Building

The Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security Subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on digital government.
2:30 p.m., 342 Dirksen Building

April 29

The House Science and Technology Committee will markup pending legislation, including bills on the national information technology research program and STEM education.
10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

May 1

The Communications, Technology and the Internet Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on cybersecurity.
1 p.m., 2322 Rayburn Building

White House Cybersecurity Review Complete; Public Announcement Expected Soon

The Obama Administration recently finished a 60-day review of federal cybersecurity efforts. Melissa Hathaway, Acting White House Cyberspace Director, indicated in public remarks (scroll down for video) at the RSA computer security conference that the report is currently with the President for his review, and should be made public soon.

As might be expected during the course of a review kept out of the public eye, speculation has run rampant over the last two months. The recent resignation of the director of the Homeland Security Department’s National Cybersecurity Center raised concerns that the National Security Agency was expanding its authority in this area. The NSA Director downplayed those reports, noting that the agency has cybersecurity responsibility for the U.S. military. Civilian cybersecurity responsibility is currently with a division of the Department of Homeland Security.

While Hathaway’s remarks (PDF) were relatively detail-free, there is an expectation that the White House will seek greater responsibility for cybersecurity. As Brian Krebs notes at Security Fix, the speech contained an emphasis on cybersecurity and the economy that might be better handled from the White House than more narrowly defined mission agencies. In any event, what changes will take place, if any, should be known within a couple of weeks.

Federal Trade Commission Issues Proposed Breach Notification Rule

On April 16 the Federal Trade Commission issued a proposed rule requiring entities to notify consumers in the event that the security of their electronic health information is breached. The FTC is seeking public comment between now and June 1st. You can read more about the comment process by reading the Federal Register Notice or visiting the online comment page. The proposed rule is prompted in part by provisions of the recent recovery legislation concerning health information technology. Part of those sections requires the FTC to prepare a report (in connection with the Department of Health and Human Services) on potential privacy, security, and breach notification requirements for vendors of health information and related entities. The proposed rule would likely run until this report issues guidelines about breach notification requirements.
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Broad-based Cybersecurity Bill Introduced

Senator Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) introduced last week a bill that would increase the role of the federal government in cybersecurity. S. 773 (text not yet available on THOMAS), in its present form, would mark a significant change in the government’s role in cybersecurity. Provisions of the bill include having the National Institute of Standards and Technology developing cybersecurity standards, requiring the National Telecommunications and Information Administration develop a secure internet addressing system, increasing federal support of cybersecurity research, and developing a periodic review of national cybersecurity similar to the Quadrennial Defense Review. Initial reaction to the bill has been mixed, with some suggesting that the increased role of the federal government in cybersecurity goes too far. The Obama Administration’s 60 day cybersecurity review is scheduled to end soon, and what the Administration wants to have happen may prompt revisions in the bill.

ACM Washington Update, Vol. 13.3 (April 3, 2009)


[1] Newsletter Highlights
[2] Computing Groups Call for More Focus on Computing Education
[3] 2008 ACM Turing Award Recognizes Dr. Barbara Liskov
[4] USACM Seeks Details On Recovery.Gov To Maximize Public Information
[5] Final 2009 Budget Provide Increases for Science Agencies
[6] Internet Privacy Bill on Drawing Board for this Congress
[7] Secretary of Homeland Security Puts REAL ID on Back Burner
[8] About USACM

[An archive of all previous editions of Washington Update is available at]
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