ACM Washington Update, Vol. 13.5 (June 4, 2009)

By David Bruggeman
June 4, 2009


[1] Newsletter Highlights
[2] ACM Co-sponsors Hill Briefing on Computer Science Education
[3] USACM Elevated to Council Status in ACM
[4] Congress Moves to Strengthen Computer Science Education
[5] Obama Administration Releases Cybersecurity Review
[6] Obama Administration Puts Open Government Blog Online
[7] Advisory Board Urges Updates to US Privacy Policies
[8] About USACM

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


The month of May was heavy on computer science education and computer security. There are more details on each item below, as well as on our weblog at

* ACM co-sponsored a congressional briefing emphasizing the need for computer science education at the K-12 level as well as the challenges the discipline faces in getting credit for its courses and teachers.

* ACM elevated USACM from committee to council status, reflecting the increasing importance of the intersection of technology and public policy.

* A bill passed the House that would provide more emphasis in computer science education in the nation’s program to coordinate investment in IT research and development.

* Coinciding with the release of a review of the nation’s cybersecurity policies and practices, President Obama addressed the nation on cybersecurity.

* The Obama Administration seeks to engage the public on open government issues by using Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs and wikis.

* The Information Security and Privacy Advisory Board of the federal government released a report recommending several updates to the nation’s privacy policies.


The ACM Education Policy Committee co-sponsored a congressional briefing called “Bringing Innovative Computing Curriculum Across the Digital Divide” on May 20th. The briefing was held with the support of the House STEM Education Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus. Approximately 70 people attended the event, which addressed the challenges and successes of computer science at the K-12 level. ACM EPC members Robert B. Schnabel, Chris Stephenson, and Joanna Goode were speakers at the event, and Representative Vernon Ehlers showed his support by attending and giving remarks. Sponsors for the event included: Microsoft, the Computing Research Association, the National Center for Women in Information Technology, the National Society of Women Engineering, IEEE-USA, and the Computer Science Teachers Association.

Robert Schnabel opened the briefing by explaining the importance of CS education at the K-12 level and how it does not get the same consideration association other STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Chris Stephenson followed by speaking on the current problems in CS education (inconsistent teacher standards and spotty curricular standards) and giving some recommendations to address these issues. Joanna Goode closed by sharing her success story of a program aimed at reforming computing science in Los Angeles county schools. The work she participated in helped demonstrate how K-12 computer science can engage students through meaningful and engaging courses. This program is headed by the Computer Science Equity Alliance with the support of UCLA and the National Science Foundation. Over five years the Alliance managed to double the number of African American students taking the Computer Science AP test, and tripled the number of Latinos and females taking the exam. The Los Angeles Times ran an article on this program, which can be read at:,0,4195521.story

More details on the briefing are available at:


ACM recently elevated its U.S. Public Policy Committee – USACM – to council status. This change reflects ACM’s increasing attention to public policy issues. The elevation to council status will streamline the decision-making processes of USACM both internally and within ACM. As a council, USACM has established subcommittees to work on issue areas of consistent and continued interest: voting, privacy and security, computing and the law, intellectual property, accessibility and digital government. The Education Policy Committee continues as an independent entity from the new US Public Policy Council.


On May 13th, the House passed H.R. 2020, a bill to amend the High Performance Computing (HPC) Act. From the HPC Act governs the National Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program, which coordinates networking and information technology investments across numerous agencies. The bill reflects recent advances in computer science and places more emphasis on CS education through strengthening interagency coordination, planning, and prioritization in those areas. This increased emphasis is expanded on in the Committee Report of the House Science and Technology Committee, which has jurisdiction over both the bill and NITRD. The bill will now proceed to the Senate for approval.

ACM’s Education Policy Committee (EPC) sent a letter to Congress supporting the bill, particularly those parts aimed at improving computer science education. For example, the bill requires that NITRD develop plans for improving the CS education pipeline as well as the diversity of students in that pipeline. You can read the EPC letter at:

More can be read on the bill at:

And the Committee Report on the bill can be read at:


On May 29 the Obama Administration released its cybersecurity review, a 60 day review of federal cybersecurity activity headed by Melissa Hathaway and completed in late April. The report is available online, along with the remarks made by the President on the day of the release. The report (PDF) is at:

The President’s remarks are at:

Additional material on the review can be found at:

Reviewing the report, this appears to be the first step in what may be a years-long process in shifting current federal cybersecurity efforts. The document is a roadmap more than a list of specific policy recommendations. The White House will be taking a more active role in this policy area, with a cybersecurity official based in the White House interacting with the national security and economic advisory groups that work with the President. Previously cybersecurity efforts at the federal level have been organized to emphasize national security and homeland security impacts, leaving economic concerns far behind. With the costs of bad cybersecurity increasing, this shift is a good sign.

Besides the changes in federal organization of cybersecurity, the report goes on to make general recommendations for increasing education and awareness in the public (both individuals and corporations), fostering pubic-private partnerships, and increasing information sharing about cybersecurity vulnerabilities. This last point has been a source of tension, and could be one of the larger challenges moving forward.


One of Obama’s first actions as President was to issue a memorandum requesting recommendations for making the Federal government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative. Consistent with this goal, USACM has released a statement outlining recommendations for putting government information online. These recommendations can be read at:

In May, the Obama Administration issued a request for public comment on its Open Government Directive, which covers efforts to get the public more engaged in policymaking. Comments can be sent via email or regular mail by June 19. In addition, the Administration created an Open Government Blog in hopes of receiving novel ideas from the broad public. All ideas received will be carefully considered by the Administration. The blog will utilize a 3-phase process to further engage the public: brainstorming, discussion, and drafting. The brainstorming session, already closed, allowed the public to submit and vote for the best ideas. On June 3 the most compelling ideas will be posted for comment. Then on June 15 a wiki will be created to draft recommendations collaboratively. This last phase is a new development compared to other online collaborative efforts the Obama Administration has used (and the campaign before them). It remains to be seen how effective a wiki can be when operated nationwide.

The Obama Administration’s memorandum can be read at:

The request for public comment can be read at:

The Open Government Blog can be viewed at:


Since the Privacy Act of 1974 few, if any, government-wide guidance has been given on privacy policies. Individual agencies have been responsible for the privacy of their own data, with widely varying results. In the absence of guidance and significant technological changes, the Information Security and Privacy Advisory Board (ISPAB) released a report to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on the need to update privacy policies. The ISPAB is a federal advisory body that provides guidance to federal agencies in the areas of information security and policy.

Some of the report’s recommendations include amending the Privacy Act and the E-Government Act of 2002, improving government leadership on privacy, and making other changes to privacy policies such as updating federal cookie policy and publicly reporting the use of Social Security Numbers.

More details on the recommendations can be explored in the report:


USACM is the U.S. Public Policy Council of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). With over 88,000 members, ACM is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.

USACM acts as the focal point for ACM’s interaction with the U.S. Congress and government organizations. It seeks to educate and assist policy-makers on legislative and regulatory matters of concern to the computing community.

For more information about USACM and ACM, see:


For earlier editions of the ACM Washington Update, see:


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