|Slowly, the Senate works on its NDAA by adding a number of amendments including a few standalone technology bills. However, an election security bill was stripped out of the FY 2021 Intelligence Authorization before it was added to the NDAA.|
The Senate continued its consideration of the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021“ (S.4049) this week before recessing for the 4 July holiday. Work will continue later this month on the massive authorization package that sets annual policy for the Department of Defense (DOD) and related agencies. However, before leaving Washington, DC, the Senate did deal with some of the amendments offered for adoption by adding a number en bloc, some of which pertain to technology policy and funding.
The following amendments were adopted on 2 July 3, 2020 en bloc by unanimous consent:
- The Department of Homeland of Security “shall produce a report on the state of digital content forgery technology” within one year of enactment and then every five years
- “[T]he Secretary of Defense, with appropriate representatives of the Armed Forces, shall brief the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and the House of Representatives on the feasibility and the current status of assigning members of the Armed Forces on active duty to the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) of the Department of Defense.”
- “the Secretary of Homeland Security shall conduct a comprehensive review of the ability of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to fulfill–
- the missions of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency; and
- the recommendations detailed in the report issued by the Cyberspace Solarium Commission”
- The “Developing Innovation and Growing the Internet of Things Act” (DIGIT Act) (S.1611) that would require the Department of Commerce to “convene a working group of Federal stakeholders for the purpose of providing recommendations and a report to Congress relating to the aspects of the Internet of Things.”
- “[T]he Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Director of the National Reconnaissance Office and the Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, shall leverage, to the maximum extent practicable, the capabilities of United States industry, including through the use of commercial geospatial-intelligence services and acquisition of commercial satellite imagery.”
- “[T]he Secretary of Defense is authorized to establish a pilot program to explore the use of consumption-based solutions to address software-intensive warfighting capability” per a re commendation made by the Section 809 Panel.
- “[T]he Secretary of Defense shall complete a study on the cyberexploitation of the personal information and accounts of members of the Armed Forces and their families.”
- A modified version of the “Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act” (S.3189) that “would reassert U.S. and Western leadership by encouraging competition with Huawei that capitalizes on U.S. software advantages, accelerating development of an open-architecture model (known as O-RAN) that would allow for alternative vendors to enter the market for specific network components, rather than having to compete with Huawei end-to-end” according to a press release.
Additionally, a deal was struck to add the “Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021” (S.3905) to S.4049 but without a bill included in the package as reported out of the Senate Intelligence Committee: the “Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections Act” (FIRE Act) (S.2242). The sponsor of the FIRE Act, Senate Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Mark Warner (D-VA), went to the Senate floor to protest the striking of his bill and to announce his plans to offer it as an amendment and force a vote:
The committee voted 14 to 1 to pass an intel authorization bill that included the FIRE Act, the act that I just described, so that if a foreign government interferes or offers you assistance or offers you dirt, you don’t say thanks; you call the FBI. So you can imagine my surprise and frustration when I learned of a backroom deal to strip the FIRE Act out of the Intelligence Committee’s legislation because of a supposed turf war with another committee. I am back again today because the security of our elections cannot wait. Let’s not hide behind process or jurisdictional boundaries. The stakes are far too high to continue the partisan blockade of election security legislation that we have seen over the last 3 years. If, behind closed doors, my Republican colleagues want to strip this legislation out of the NDAA, then I am going to offer it up as an amendment to force an up-or-down vote and put every Member of this body on the record: Are you for election security or are you for allowing foreign entities to interfere and offer assistance with no requirement to report?
Prior to its inclusion in the FY 2021 Intelligence Authorization Act, Warner had asked unanimous consent to take up the FIRE Act multiple times but was met with Republican objections each time. And there are other election security bills Republicans have continued to block, including:
- The “Duty To Report Act” (S.1247)
- The “Senate Cybersecurity Protection Act” (S.890)
- The “Securing America’s Federal Elections Act” (SAFE Act) (H.R.2722)
- The “Secure Elections Act of 2019” (S.1540)
Yet, the Senate has taken up and passed two election-related bills addressing facets of the cybersecurity challenges. On July 17, the Senate passed the “Defending the Integrity of Voting Systems Act” (S. 1321) by unanimous consent that would “make it a federal crime to hack any voting systems used in a federal election” according to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s website. In June the Senate also passed the “Defending Elections against Trolls from Enemy Regimes (DETER) Act” (S. 1328) that “will make “improper interference in U.S. elections” a violation of U.S. immigration law, and violators would be barred from obtaining a visa to enter the United States. The House has yet to act on these bills.
When the Senate returns to the bill on 20 July, a number of amendments will be pending, including one to establish semiconductor manufacturing grants.
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