ACM Washington Update, Vol. 14.2 (April 6, 2010)

By David Bruggeman
April 6, 2010


[1] Newsletter Highlights
[2] 2009 ACM Turing Award Goes to Charles Thacker
[3] USACM and CRA Express Concerns with Senate Cybersecurity Bill
[4] Science Funding Does Well in FY2011 Budget Request
[5] NSF Revamps Computing Education Programs
[6] State Education Standards Proposal Holds Promise for Computer Science
[7] Federal Communications Commission Releases National Broadband Plan
[8] Notable Departures at the National Science Foundation
[9] Google Books Settlement Still Not Reached
[10] About USACM

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


With the health care debate and legislation in the rear view mirror, Washington is turing its attention to numerous other issues that were stalled for the past year. There are more details on each item below, as well as on our weblog at

* The 2009 ACM A.M. Turing Award recognizes the accomplishments of Dr. Charles Thacker, who was instrumental in the development of the modern personal computer.

* USACM joins with the Computing Research Association to express concerns with some provisions of the cybersecurity bill just approved by the Senate Commerce Committee.

* The three major physical science agencies fare well in the President’s proposed budgets for fiscal year 2011.

* The NSF plans to broaden current computing programs in efforts to improve computing education and ensure broad participation.

* An effort to develop common state education standards suggests including computer sceince in the mathematics standards.

* The Federal Communications Commission released its proposal for expanding broadband service and quality across the country.

* The NSF Director and head of the computer science directorate will be leaving the agency.

* A recent hearing on the revised Google Books Settlement took place without a ruling from the court.


In recognition of his work in developing the modern personal computer, Charles P. Thacker was awarded the 2009 ACM A.M. Turing Award. The Award, which comes with a $250,000 prize, is supported in part by Intel and Google, and is considered the top prize in computing. It is named for the British mathematician Alan Turing, who was instrumental in the early development of modern computing.

Dr. Thacker designed the Alto, a personal computer that incorporated many features we take for granted today, including a preliminary graphical user interface/display and What You See is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editors. He worked on the Alto while at Xerox PARC in Palo Alto, California. The Alto also served as the prototype of networked personal computers. Dr. Thakcer also worked on the Ethernet local area network, and multiprocessor workstations.

Congratulations to Dr. Thacker on his accomplishments, and on receiving the 2009 Turing Award.

For more on Dr. Thacker, his citation, and the ACM A.M. Turing Award, check out the following links:

Dr. Thacker’s Turing citation –
ACM Turing Award webpage –
Official Press Release –


With health care legislation off the front burner, the Senate and House have shifted to other legislative issues. One of these issues is cybersecurity, and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee recently approved a cybersecurity bill. Initially introduced last year, S. 773 would affect several areas of cybersecurity, including the Federal Scholarship for Service Program and adjustments to federal research and development in cybersecurity. The bill also proposes several new coordinating mechanisms intended to improve sharing of information to support better cybersecurity practices.

USACM, along with the Computing Research Association (CRA), expressed concerns with certain parts of the bill back in January, particularly the provisions about certification of cybersecurity professionals. Revisions to the bill did not effectively address those concerns, so both USACM and CRA reemphasized their concerns in a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee in late March. Major concerns with the bill include:

* The legislation would require a complex, untested, and mandatory certification regime for employers and employees almost immediately after a National Academies study on certification is completed. A more deliberate process, one that carefully considers the findings of the proposed study, and the feasibility and consequences of such a national system, is called for.
* The bill emphasizes narrow training in specific systems and principles, such as secure coding. Systems thinking, and holistic systems design, would go beyond treating the symptoms of poor cybersecurity and address the underlying problems.
* The provision for a real-time cybersecurity dashboard does not account for the increased exposure to threats and vulnerabilities that would be required for real-time risk and threat assessment.

You can review our letter online:

The bill can be reviewed online (though the reported version of the bill has yet to be posted):


At the beginning of February, the Administration released its $3.8 trillion budget request for Fiscal Year 2011 (which begins on October 1st). Contrary to earlier concerns about cuts, science agency budgets did relatively well. The budget request will maintain the doubling trend (from 2007-2017) for the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, and the Office of Science at the Department of Energy as targeted in President Bush’s American Competitiveness Initiative and the America COMPETES Act.

ACM’s public policy director, Cameron Wilson, recently provided his perspective on the changes in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education programs at NSF. Further details can be read in this newsletter as well as at:

In addition, CRA’s director of government affairs, Peter Harsha, gave a detailed analysis on the proposed increases to various computing research programs. This can be read at:


As the FY2011 budget request was released, agencies had the opportunity to reveal their plans for new programs or alterations to existing programs. One significant change of note is at the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF plans to shift its focus on education and workforce programs in the Computer & Information Science & Engineering Directorate (CISE). CISE staff plan to create one broad computing education program by joining the current Pathways to Revitalized Undergraduate Computing Education (CPATH) and the Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) programs. Currently, CPATH focuses on higher education and BPC focuses on improving diversity at all levels of computing. Both programs have funded many proposals including efforts to reform Advanced Placement Computer Science courses, the Exploring Computer Science course developed in LA, and national alliances focused on diversity. The new program will promote broad participation and more effective computing education through combining the most promising components and practices from both programs with an increased focus on middle and high school education and education research. The solicitation is expected to be released in the summer of 2010.

Cameron Wilson, ACM’s public policy director, provided his insight into the challenging issues this new program may face in the diversity of computing. Details on this concern and other useful information on this NSF program change can be read at:


Forty-eight governors have come together to propse a common set of standards for mathematics and English arts. This Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) focuses on the core curriculum – courses required for graduation. As part of the CCSSI math standards, there is a model four-course path for high school mathematics. The standards only reflect three years of courses, so there are included a list of courses that would be acceptable for further study that counts towards math requirements. Computer science is one of those additional courses.

At the moment the proposal is still in draft form. After receiving all public comment, a final version will be made available later this year. The standards proposed would be voluntary, but many governors have announced they will implement them. You can read more about the initiative online: – The CCSSI website – The proposed standards – The Appendix, which includes the proposed four-course math pathway.


In mid-March the Federal Communications Commission sent the National Broadband Plan to Congress. Required by the stimulus bill approved last year, the Plan was developed by an FCC task force and informed by several opportunities for public comment. The plan focuses on both consumer access and use of broadband and the ability to use broadband to support several public goods, such as health care delivery and energy efficiency. The plan has the following goals:

Connect 100 million households to affordable 100-megabits-per-second download service, and 50-megabits-per-second upload service.

Ensure that the United States is leading the world in mobile innovation.

* Affordable access in every American community to ultra-high-speed broadband of at
least 1 gigabit per second at anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals, and government buildings.

* Bring affordable broadband to rural communities, schools, libraries, and vulnerable
populations by transitioning existing Universal Service Fund support from yesterday’s
analog technologies to tomorrow’s digital infrastructure.

* Provide every first responder with access to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable public safety network.

* Make it possible for every American to use broadband to track and manage their energy consumption.

Besides using Universal Service Fund money to assist in this project, the FCC intends to reclaim 500 megahertz of spectrum available within the next 10 years. The spectrum would then be auctioned for use in both mobile and wireless broadband applications. If the auctions proceed, the FCC believes the costs of the plan will be offset.

The plan makes several recommendations for the FCC, Congress, and other agencies to follow. They are too numerous to list here, but can be reviewed on the website. They fall into four major categories:

* Establishing Competition Policies
* Ensuring Efficient Allocation and Use of Government-Owned and Government-Influenced Assets
* Creating Incentives for Universal Availability and Adoption of Broadband
* Updating Policies, Setting Standards and Aligning Incentives for Using Broadband for National Priorities

You can review the plan at:

There will likely be resistance to parts of the plan, as some of the recommendations are significant changes to current telecommunications practices, and others ask for an expansion of the FCC’s traditional role and legal authority. But the Obama Administration seems committed to shifting broadband from a service like cable television to a utility like electricity.


Two of the National Science Foundation’s NSF) leadership team will be leaving their posts later this year. Director Arden Bement announced in early February that he will leave the Foundation to return to Purdue University. At Purdue Dr. Bement will lead the new Global Policy Research Institute. He begins his work at Purdue on June 1, a few months shy of completing his six-year term appointment at NSF. Here’s the link to the official NSF press release:

As reported on the Computing Research Association’s Twitter feed (, Dr. Jeanette Wing, e Director of the Foundation’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate, will leave her post later this year. No word yet on the specific timetable for her departure, or what’s next for her. She came to NSF from Carnegie Mellon University.


We wrote last fall that the proposed settlement in the Google Books lawsuit needed revision in order to satisfy the courts. The project scans and indexes books for viewing online, and has serious copyright and anti-trust implications. Following the objections raised before the November hearing, Google revised the settlement, narrowing its scope. All the same, the Department of Justice and other parties indicated they still have concerns that the proposed agreement is too broad and/or provides too much of a competitive advantage to Google.

As a result, the presiding judge started the February hearing on the revised agreement by indicating he would not rule on the agreement during the hearing. There is no timeline for his decision. It is unlikely that he would reject the settlement outright, so we may have another round of revision and comments.


USACM is the U.S. Public Policy Committee of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, unites computing 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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