Plenty of techies, carrying an array of digital devices and looking for power outlets, swarmed Capitol Hill last week for the so-called “cyber week” in the U.S. House of Representatives. To give you some idea of the number of tech lobbyists on scene, Wednesday’s huddle began with the announcement that one major tech company alone assembled an estimated 200 people to work the cybersecurity bill. This posting gives you a few highlights from last week.
Cyber week was a busy week with controversial floor votes in both chambers, 36 scheduled Senate committee hearings, 60+ scheduled House committee hearings, and numerous other lobbyists and advocates on the Hill, including bankers, golfers, restaurateurs, and representatives from various interest groups vying to protect or increase some part of the federal budget. Add to that a lockdown of parts of two Senate office buildings on Wednesday, various caucus events; a Congressional briefing on people with disabilities; and the addition of the newest Congressional member, Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL), to the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.
Similar to last year, cyber week focused largely on the passage of four bills by the House related to, in part, fostering cloud computing research, strengthening computer science education, promoting greater participation by women and minorities in the computing field, and improving cybersecurity practices within government and in collaboration with private industry.
The increasing pervasiveness and importance of technology and cyberspace in federal policy was evident in additional cyber themes that resonated during the week throughout Capitol Hill. Those themes included: intellectual property theft, computer and software patent litigation, accessible cloud and mobile technologies, internet governance, internet taxation, and immigration reforms to foster a high-skill tech workforce in cloud, mobile, and high-performance computing.
House Floor Votes
The week included the easy passage of three cyber bills and the contentious passage of a fourth cyber bill in the House.
• Federal Efforts to Foster Research, Education, and Workforce Diversity
The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council, in a joint letter with CRA, IEEE-CS, and SIAM to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee last month, endorsed the following two cyber bills, which were overwhelmingly approved last week by the House.
The Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2013, H.R. 756 (passed 402-16) would reauthorize the National Science Foundation (NSF) cybersecurity research grant program for basic research aimed at enhancing computer and network hardware and software, human-computer interactions, usability, identity management, and the detection, investigation, and prosecution of cyber-crimes, including those involving intellectual property theft, organized crime, and crimes against children. It would continue a Scholarship for Service program to provide scholarships to university and college students who pursue a degree in a cybersecurity field contingent upon the student working for the federal government after graduation. It also would require the 15 member agencies of the NITRD program to develop and update a cybersecurity strategic research and development plan.
The Advancing America’s Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act of 2013, H.R. 967 (passed 406-11) would require the NITRD program to provide for expanded research on cyber-physical systems, human-computer interactions, visualization, and big data. It would require the establishment of a task force to explore how to expand collaborative intra-agency research and development activities on cyber-physical systems. It also would require the 15 member agencies of the NITRD program to develop and update a 5-year strategic plan, which would include, in part, how NITRD will strengthen education and training programs “to ensure an adequate, well-trained workforce” and increased student diversity in postsecondary degree programs.
• Federal Efforts to Strengthen Information Security at Federal Agencies
The Federal Information Security Amendments Act of 2013, H.R. 1163 (passed 416-0) would require federal agencies to have agency-wide information security plans with policies, procedures, and practices approved by the Office of Management and Budget.
• Public-Private Information Sharing Efforts to Combat Intellectual Property Theft
The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council released a statement earlier this month expressing concern with the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), H.R. 624 (passed 288-127), which would make it easier to share information between the government and companies. My colleague David has been tracking CISPA and will be providing updates.
Notably, similar to last year, the need for sharing information to combat intellectual property theft was a a dominant theme of various floor speeches leading up to the floor vote.
House Select Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers (R-MI) focused on the need to protect against intellectual property theft as an important reason for the bill just before the members voted against the motion to recommit and then passed the bill. He stated that cyber theft of intellectual property is a “serious issue” that America is not prepared to deal with and that it poses a major threat to American companies, middle-class jobs, and the economy. He cited a few examples and emphasized how such theft is occurring every day. National Intelligence Director James Clapper had told the Committee the previous week that intellectual property theft in cyberspace occurs daily.
Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus Co-Chair Jim Langevin’s (D-RI) floor statement also framed the bill in terms of intellectual property theft. He stated, “Obviously, the challenges we presently face in cyberspace are growing exponentially every day. It seems like there’s not a week that goes by that you don’t hear of a new major attack on our critical infrastructure or particularly our banking system or major corporations with intellectual property theft, and obviously we have got to take action and do so now.” He further stated that adversaries are “actively engaged in cyber attacks or theft of intellectual property or identity theft and the list goes on and on.”
• Intellectual Property
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet held a hearing last Tuesday on “Abusive Patent Litigation: The Issues Impacting American Competitiveness and Job Creation at the International Trade Commission and Beyond.”
The Chief Intellectual Property Counsel for 3M, Kevin Rhodes, testified that “3M understands from firsthand experience the costs involved in defending itself in an ITC investigation alleging infringement by software and components of products with hundreds of other components, like 3M’s RFID readers, tags and software used for electronic toll collection and parking management.”
Professor Colleen V. Chien of Santa Clara University School of Law in her written testimony stated that “enforcement is now the new normal.” She stated that large companies have followed the lead of patent assertion entities and “are monetizing and asserting their patents at a greater rate as well, e.g. through the smartphone wars.” She recommended that Congress should mandate the public disclosure of data on patent litigations, reexaminations, and ITC actions to third party providers who would “consolidate and make information available to the public in an accessible form at no or low cost and allow public interest groups to monitor implementation.” She stated, “Google Patents and Patent Bulk downloads would be a natural choice for a partner.”
• Internet Governance
In a show of bipartisan cooperation, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved H.R. 1580 on internet governance, as sponsored by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) with 32 cosponsors (26R and 6D).
The bill omitted the controversial “to promote a global Internet free from government control” phrasing from the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology that concerned some members. The concern was, in part, that the language could be interpreted to preclude the FCC’s authority to regulate internet-related issues and the ability of the government to address various policy issues, including cybersecurity and online IP infringement. Rep. Eshoo (D-CA) also expressed concern during the Subcommittee markup that the prior language could hinder diplomatic efforts because of the contract relationship between the Department of Commerce (NTIA) and ICAAN.
Compare the Subcommittee’s text for Section 2:
“It is the policy of the United States to promote a global Internet free from government control and to preserve and advance the successful multistakeholder model that governs the Internet.”
With the final adopted text for Section 2:
“It is the policy of the United States to preserve and advance the successful multistakeholder model that governs the Internet.”
H.R. 1580 now advances to the full House. No Roll Call vote is scheduled.
• Internet Taxation
Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY) introduced a bill on internet taxation last Tuesday. The purpose of the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013, S.743, is “to restore States’ sovereign rights to enforce State and local sales and use tax laws, and for other purposes.” The bill has bipartisan support from 28 cosponsors. The Senate is expected to hold a cloture vote to proceed with the bill later today.
• High-End Computing Research
On Tuesday, the same day that the House overwhelmingly approved the two bills to foster computing research and development (above H.R. 756 and H.R. 967), Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced S.733, “A bill to amend the Department of Energy High-End Computing Revitalization Act of 2004 to improve the high-end computing research and development program of the Department of Energy, and for other purposes.” The bill currently has 8 cosponsors (2R and 6D), twice as many as a similar bill in the 112th Congress that died in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The text of S. 733 is not available yet, but it is expected to be similar to previous bills that called for supporting high performance computing and research on “exascale” performance, which would enable significantly more powerful computers than today’s fastest supercomputers.