Government Regulations, Governance, Risk and Compliance, Supply chain, Critical Infrastructure Security

House Democrats unveil major legislation on innovation, cybersecurity and the supply chain

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., talks to reporters during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill on Jan. 20, 2022, in Washington. Pelosi released the framework of major legislation that would pump billions of federal dollars into domestic manufacturing of semiconductor computer chips and includes a number of new cybersecurity init...

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., released its own version of legislation that would pump billions of federal dollars into domestic manufacturing of semiconductor computer chips, and includes a number of new cybersecurity initiatives at multiple federal agencies.

The America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing Preeminence in Technology and Economic Strength) Act includes $52 billion in financial incentives to entice semiconductor manufacturers to set up shop in the United States. The money is allocated for improvements in construction, expansion or modernization of existing facilities, as well as workforce development and other “reasonable costs” associated with operating a semiconductor facility.

The proposal includes an additional $45 billion to improve the resiliency of the national supply chain, something policymakers believe will cut down on a series of major disruptions and shortages that have occurred over the past two years as companies struggled to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

The legislation “is a bold, comprehensive package to strengthen America’s competitiveness. … It’s major components include many bills that have already passed the House by strong bipartisan votes or have bipartisan cosponsors,” Pelosi said in a statement.

The supply chain has been a major focus of the Biden administration, and many parts of the bill deal with different ways to improve the security and reliability of the goods and services that Americans rely on. The House bill was released the same day the Department of Commerce put out a report that painted a dire picture of the nation's semiconductor shortage, saying the supply chain around the critical computer chips "remains fragile" and that "demand continues to far outstrip supply."

It also comes a week after the White House called on Congress to pass the United States Innovation and Competition Act, which already passed the Senate and includes many similar proposals to the House version.

A new office within the Department of Commerce would focus on mapping out national supply chains and searching for gaps, vulnerabilities and areas of risk. Similar to a program proposed in Congress and being implemented at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) with regards to critical infrastructure, the Commerce office would be able to designate critical industries, supply chains and goods that have “a significant effect on the national security or economic security of the United States” and inform broader supply chain resiliency initiatives.

The Department of Homeland Security would be prohibited from buying foreign-made drones, and would also be compelled to develop and issue guidance to contractors who introduce new technologies into the department.

“Such guidance shall require contractors to certify to the Department that each item listed on a submitted bill of materials (software and hardware) is free from all known cyber vulnerabilities and defects affecting the security of the end product or service supplied to DHS. It also requires the contract to notify DHS of any identified vulnerability or defect and provide information on how such vulnerability or defect will be mitigated, repaired or resolved,” the framework reads.

At the Department of the Treasury, a “special measure” would be added to the authority of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to pursue “bad actors” who launder ransomware money from China or North Korea.

On the telecommunications side, the bill would establish a permanent advisory council to the Federal Communications Commission that focuses on the security, reliability and interoperability of communications networks. It would also set aside $1.5 billion to the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund that would help deploy Open Radio Access Network equipment, part of a larger push by multiple U.S. administrations to put American technologies at the forefront of the telecommunications landscape and 5G rollout while crowding out Chinese companies like Huawei that U.S. officials claim are not secure and beholden to the Chinese government.

It would support the development of new research and standards around cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, privacy, advanced communications and other fields. At the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) testing around bias in emerging technologies like facial recognition and biometric identification systems would be expanded, while creating a new directorate at the National Science Foundation dedicated to research and development in cybersecurity, the environment, national security and inequality.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which advises the government on surveillance programs and other technologies, would be given access to AI systems used by the government as part of their oversight mission.

Many of the provisions included in the bill were part of the United States Innovation and Competition Act, which passed the Senate last year.

Derek B. Johnson

Derek is a senior editor and reporter at SC Media, where he has spent the past three years providing award-winning coverage of cybersecurity news across the public and private sectors. Prior to that, he was a senior reporter covering cybersecurity policy at Federal Computer Week. Derek has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Hofstra University in New York and a master’s degree in public policy from George Mason University in Virginia.

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