Senate Passes Bill Adding to Cyber Duties for NIST, NSF

December 12, 2016–The Senate on Dec. 10 approved the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (S 3084), which would add several cybersecurity-related tasks to the work lists of the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and which also includes language that Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee leaders said should smooth the way for approval of the measure by the House next year.

The bill, which was introduced earlier this year (TRDaily, June 23) by Sens. Cory Gardner (R., Colo.) and Gary Peters (D., Mich.), aims broadly to maximize “basic research by reducing administrative burdens for researchers, enhancing agency oversight, improving research dissemination, and reforming federal science agencies to increase the impact of taxpayer-funded research.”

Among the bill’s provisions is one that would amend the 2002 Cyber Security Research and Development Act, which authorized NSF and NIST to establish new programs and increase funding for existing programs directed toward computer and network security research and development, and related research fellowships.  For NSF, the bill would add two research areas, one dealing with voting system software and hardware, and the other dealing with “the role of the human factor in cybersecurity and the interplay of computers and humans in the physical world.”

For NIST, the agency’s director would be tasked with undertaking additional priority research on quantum computing, including developing a process to research and identify cryptography standards and guidelines for future cybersecurity needs, including “quantum-resistant” crypto standards. NIST would also be tasked with performing research to support the development of “voluntary, consensus-based, industry-led standards and recommendations on the security of computers, computer networks, and computer data storage used in voting systems to ensure voters can vote securely and privately.”

Passage of the bill, which does not appear to have a House companion, was accomplished via a substitute amendment that reflects “common priorities” of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, according to a statement from Sens. John Thune (R., S.D.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), the committee’s ranking member, and Sen. Thune said Congress may take more action on a reintroduced measure in 2017.

“This legislation represents a bipartisan and bicameral approach to boosting innovation and maximizing scientific research opportunities that Congress will pick up next year,” Sen. Thune said in a statement.

“I congratulate Sen. Gardner and Sen. Peters for their outstanding efforts to find a bipartisan path to Senate passage of this legislation,” he said, adding, “I also appreciate House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith and Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson for working with us to find an agreement that can pass both chambers.”

“With passage in the Senate and strong bipartisan support in the House, I’m hopeful we’ll get something quickly passed into law next year that will help ensure America remains a world leader in innovation,” Sen. Nelson said in a statement.  – John Curran, john.curran@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily