Further Reading, Other Developments, and Coming Events (5 October)

Coming Events

  • On 6 October, the House Administration Committee’s Elections Subcommittee will hold a virtual hearing titled “Voting Rights and Election Administration: Combatting Misinformation in the 2020 Election.”
  • The United States’ Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) announced that its third annual National Cybersecurity Summit “will be held virtually as a series of webinars every Wednesday for four weeks beginning September 16 and ending October 7:”
    • October 7: Defending our Democracy
    • One can register for the event here.
  • On October 29, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will hold a seminar titled “Green Lights & Red Flags: FTC Rules of the Road for Business workshop” that “will bring together Ohio business owners and marketing executives with national and state legal experts to provide practical insights to business and legal professionals about how established consumer protection principles apply in today’s fast-paced marketplace.”

Other Developments

  • The House Intelligence Committee released an unclassified executive summary of “The China Deep Dive: A Report on the Intelligence Community’s Capabilities and Competencies with Respect to the People’s Republic of China.” In a press release, the committee “found that “the United States’ (U.S.) Intelligence Community (IC) has not sufficiently adapted to a changing geopolitical and technological environment increasingly shaped by a rising China and the growing importance of interlocking non-military transnational threats, such as global health, economic security, and climate change.” The committee further claimed “[a]bsent a significant realignment of resources, the U.S. government and intelligence community will fail to achieve the outcomes required to enable continued U.S. competition with China on the global stage for decades to come, and to protect the U.S. health and security.”
    • The committee stated that while its “review was scoped to assess the IC’s efforts against the China target, some of its findings address not merely China, but also broader issues foundational to the IC’s structure and continued ability to operate in a 21st century environment—an environment shaped by the ravages of COVID-19.”
    • The committee made the following findings:
      • Intelligence Community [REDACTED] compete with China. Absent a significant realignment of resources, the U.S. government will fail to achieve the outcomes required to enable U.S. competition with China on the global stage.
      • The Intelligence Community places insufficient emphasis and focus on “soft,” often interconnected long-term national security threats, such as infectious diseases of pandemic potential and climate change, and such threats’ macroeconomic impacts on U.S. national security. This could jeopardize the future relevance of the Intelligence Community’s analysis to policymakers on certain long-range challenges, particularly given the growing importance of these policy challenges to decision-makers and the public and the devastating impact of the current pandemic on U.S. national life.
      • The Intelligence Community has failed to fully achieve the integration objectives outlined in the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA) for targets and topics unrelated to counterterrorism.
      • The Intelligence Community is struggling to adapt to the increasing availability and commodification of data, [REDACTED].
      • The increasing pace of global events, fueled by the rise of social media and mobile communications, will continue to stress the IC’s ability to provide timely and accurate analysis within customers’ decision-making window.
      • The future successful application of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other advanced analytic techniques will be integral enablers for the U.S. national security enterprise. Conversely, there is a high degree of strategic risk associated with stasis and a failure to modernize.
      • Existing intelligence requirement prioritization mechanisms [REDACTED] particularly with respect to decision-makers outside of the Department of Defense.
    • The committee made the following recommendations broadly about the IC:
      • The Committee recommends the creation of a bipartisan, bicameral congressional study group to evaluate the current organization of and authorities provided to the intelligence community, with the express goal of making necessary reforms to the National Security Act of 1947 and the Intelligence Reform and Preventing Terrorism Act (IRPTA) of 2004.
      • The Executive Branch, in consultation with congressional intelligence and appropriations committees, must undertake a zero-based review of all intelligence program expenditures, assess the programs’ continued relevance to forward-looking mission sets, such as the increased relevance of “soft” transnational threats and continued competition with China, and take immediate corrective action to align taxpayer resources in support of strategic requirements.
      • An external entity should conduct a formal review of the governance of open-source intelligence (OSINT) within the intelligence community, and submit to congressional intelligence and appropriations committees a proposal to streamline and strengthen U.S. government capabilities.
      • The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) should identify shared artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) use cases across the intelligence community and use the its coordinating and budgetary authorities to consolidate spending, expertise, and data around shared community-wide AI/ML capabilities.
    • Specific to the People’s Republic of China, the committee stated
      • ODNI should strengthen its ability to effectively track [REDACTED]
      • The IC should [REDACTED] existing intelligence collection prioritization frameworks, particularly to inform resource allocation decisions.
      • The IC should formalize and broaden programs designed to mentor the next generation of China analysts. Agencies should leverage best practices from across the community, and develop internal Senior Steering Groups to prioritize investments in specific China-focused programs.
      • The IC should conduct a review of security clearance adjudication policies surrounding [REDACTED]
      • If an officer possesses critical skills relevant to China mission-set, such as proficiency in Mandarin Chinese, the Intelligence Community should [REDACTED]
      • The IC should engage in a dialogue with the U.S. Department of Education on the requirements for the future of the U.S. national security workforce.
      • The Intelligence Community should codify and nurture cadres of officers with China-focused expertise [REDACTED]
      • The U.S. should expand its diplomatic, economic, and defense presence in the Indo-Pacific region, to include in the Pacific Island Countries and Southeast Asia.
      • The IC should consider developing a series of reskilling programs to leverage existing talent and expertise previously cultivated in counterterrorism programs.
      • The IC should streamline China-focused reporting across regional areas of responsibility.
      • The IC should leverage lessons learned from providing support to the counterterrorism mission in order to identify ways in which it can embed real-time support to customers, especially those located outside of the Department of Defense, such as the Department of State, the United States Trade Representative, or U.S. health and disaster preparedness agencies.
      • In recognition of the growing importance of economic and policy agencies to the overall success of the U.S. government’s approach to China, the intelligence community should develop plans to increase analytic support to, or otherwise ensure consistent, agile communications and appropriate interactions with, non-traditional agencies, such as the Department of Commerce, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education, and U.S. public health agencies.
  • The United States (U.S.), Australia, India, and Japan convened a virtual session of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (aka The Quad) late last month ahead of in person talks in Tokyo set for tomorrow. The renewal of this diplomatic relationship is being portrayed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as “an anti-China frontline,” a “mini-NATO,” and a reflection of the U.S.’ “Cold War mentality” according to the PRC’s Vice Foreign Minister. Nonetheless, the four nations issued a statement indicating the “four democracies discussed ways to work together to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, promote transparency and counter disinformation, and protect the rules-based order the region has long enjoyed,” a statement that includes some pokes at the PRC. First, obviously the PRC is not a democracy and is in the process of cracking down on democracy in Hong Kong. Second, the PRC’s government is not renowned for its transparency and is coming to be one of the world’s foremost purveyors of disinformation online. Third, the U.S. has been arguing since the Obama Administration that the PRC is violating the rules and norms that have ensured prosperity and peace in the Pacific and Indian Oceans since World War II. Not surprisingly, the PRC sees this order as having been established by the U.S. and largely for its benefit.
    • The four nations added:
      • Noting the importance of digital connectivity and secure networks, the officials discussed ways to promote the use of trusted vendors, particularly for fifth generation (5G) networks. They explored ways to enhance coordination on counterterrorism, maritime security, cyber security, and regional connectivity, as well as quality infrastructure based upon international best practices, such as the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment. Participants also highlighted the need to improve supply chains in sectors including critical minerals, medical supplies, and pharmaceuticals.
      • The officials reaffirmed their countries’ strong support for ASEAN centrality and ASEAN-led regional architecture. They explored ways to work together in the Mekong sub-region, in the South China Sea, and across the Indo-Pacific to support international law, pluralism, regional stability, and post-pandemic recovery efforts.
    • Again, many of these policy goals and problems are arising because of PRC actions, at least according to The Quad The U.S. and its allies have been fighting the PRC’s 5G push and have accused the PRC of stepping up its cyber activities, including espionage.
    • Moreover, Japan created and advocated what eventually became the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment as a policy counterpoint to the PRC’s Silk Belt and Road initiative that has resulted in massive aid from and indebtedness to Beijing in the developing world.
    • The Quad’s work, alongside bilateral relationships in the region, could well coalesce into an informal alliance against the PRC, an outcome that would likely help Washington achieve some of its professed policy goals.
  • Representative Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) and Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) introduced the “COVID-19 Disinformation Research and Reporting Act” (H.R.8395/S.4732) that “would examine the role of disinformation and misinformation on the public response to COVID-19 and the role that social media has in promoting the spread of false information” per their press release. The bill would require the “National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to conduct a study on the current understanding of the spread of COVID–19-related disinformation and misinformation on the internet and social media platforms.”
    • Wexton and Hirono asserted:
      • Disinformation and misinformation can be particularly dangerous during public health emergencies like COVID-19. This kind of false information can erode trust in science, government officials, and medical and public health experts. Disinformation and misinformation can also make it harder to get accurate and important materials to vulnerable communities, particularly once a vaccine becomes available. The internet and social media have made it easier to spread fake medical information such as unproven treatments for COVID-19.
    • The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine would need to submit a report to Congress, including “potential strategies to mitigate the dissemination and negative impacts of COVID–19-related disinformation and misinformation (and specifically the dissemination of disinformation and misinformation on social media),” which would likely have utility in fighting other disinformation and misinformation spread online. In fact, the sponsors may be using the current pandemic as the rationale to pass a bill that may otherwise be opposed. It is not hard to imagine the opposition from many on the right if Wexton, Hirono and their cosponsors had proposed legislation to study online extremism and hate in the United States, resulting in a report on how the U.S. might mitigate these phenomena given the role extremists and white supremacists have played in the Republican Party under President Donald Trump.
    • The bill is being sponsored by other Democrats in each chamber but no Republicans.
  • Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD) and 18 Republican colleagues sent President Donald Trump a letter “to express our concerns about a Request For Information (RFI) released by the Department of Defense (DOD) that contradicts the successful free-market strategy you have embraced for 5G.” Late last month, The United States Department of Defense (DOD) released a  RFI on the possibility of the agency sharing its prized portions of electromagnetic spectrum with commercial providers to speed the development and adoption of 5G in the United States. The Senators argued:
    • Rather than rely on private industry and market forces to foster multiple, facilities-based 5G networks, the RFI seeks information on a government-managed process for 5G networks.
    • Nationalizing 5G and experimenting with untested models for 5G deployment is not the way the United States will win the 5G race.  While we recognize the need for secure communications networks for our military, we are concerned that such a proposal threatens our national security.  When bad actors only need to penetrate one network, they have a greater likelihood of disrupting the United States’ communications services.
  • The Department of Defense (DOD) implemented a new rule designed to drive better cybersecurity among United States (U.S.) defense contractors. This rule brings together two different lines of effort to require the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) to employ better cybersecurity given the risks they face by holding and using classified information, Federal Contract Information (FCI) and Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). The Executive Branch has long wrestled with how to best push contractors to secure their systems, and Congress and the White House have opted for using federal contract requirements in that contractors must certify compliance. However, the most recent initiative, the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) Framework will require contractors to be certified by third party assessors. And yet, it is not clear the DOD has wrestled with the often misaligned incentives present in third party certification schemes.
  • Nonetheless, the DOD explained this is “an interim rule to amend the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) to implement a DOD Assessment Methodology and CMMC framework in order to assess contractor implementation of cybersecurity requirements and enhance the protection of unclassified information within the DOD supply chain.
  • The DOD added
    • This rule amends DFARS subpart 204.73, Safeguarding Covered Defense Information and Cyber Incident Reporting, to implement the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication 800-171 DOD Assessment Methodology. The new coverage in the subpart directs contracting officers to verify in the Supplier Performance Risk System (SPRS) that an offeror has a current NIST SP 800-171 DOD Assessment on record, prior to contract award, if the offeror is required to implement NIST SP 800-171 pursuant to DFARS clause 252.204-7012. The contracting officer is also directed to include a new DFARS provision 252.204-7019, Notice of NIST SP 800-171 DOD Assessment Requirements, and a new DFARS clause 252.204-7020, NIST SP 800-171 DOD Assessment Requirements, in solicitations and contracts including solicitations using FAR part 12 procedures for the acquisition of commercial items, except for solicitations solely for the acquisition of COTS items.
    • This rule adds a new DFARS subpart, Subpart 204.75, CMMC, to specify the policy and procedures for awarding a contract, or exercising an option on a contract, that includes the requirement for a CMMC certification. Specifically, this subpart directs contracting officers to verify in SPRS that the apparently successful offeror’s or contractor’s CMMC certification is current and meets the required level prior to making the award.
  • The House Republican’s China Task Force (CTF) released its final report with its recommendations on how the United States (U.S.) should change its policies to counter the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which includes a slew of technology-related recommendations.
    • The CTF asserted:
      • Since the establishment of diplomatic relations with the PRC more than 40 years ago, the United States has sought to draw the PRC into the community of nations as a responsible stakeholder. U.S. leaders pursued a strategy of engagement based on the assumption that expanding the bilateral economic relationship with the PRC would advance the U.S. national interest and lead the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to change. This engagement strategy often turned a blind eye to the CCP’s human rights violations, economic malfeasance, expansionist aggression, and empty promises, as well as the CCP’s deep commitment to a hostile Communist ideology that drives this malign behavior. This strategy has, simply put, failed.
    • The CTF made these recommendations:
      • Supply Chain Security
        • Better securing our medical and national security supply chains by:
        • Providing aggressive, smart, and targeted tax incentives to accelerate our research and development (R&D) and production of crucial medicines, medical supplies, ingredients, tests, and vaccines;
        • Creating a grant program necessary to catalyze domestic production of important technologies and designing tax incentives to secure U.S. supply of advanced semiconductors; and
        • Overhauling the federal permitting process for mineral development and prioritizing advancements in mineral refining so neither industry nor the Defense Industrial Base are reliant on the CCP.
      • National Security
        • Working with the DoD to modernize force structure, posture, operational concepts, and acquisitions in order to deter CCP aggression in the Indo-Pacific and around the world.
        • Ensuring modernization of all three legs of the nuclear triad as well as development and fielding of conventional capabilities critical to counter the PLA in the Indo-Pacific, including ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles.
        • Underscoring the need for a minimum three to five percent real growth in the defense budget per year in order to deter and defeat the PLA and other key adversaries.
        • Increasing focus on how the U.S. military protects space capabilities and carrying out space exploration goals by leveraging private sector investments.
        • Cutting off material support of CCP military industrial base companies, including divestment from companies with ties to the CCP’s military.
        • Safeguarding the U.S. electoral process and the integrity of our elections with various measures, including the identification of foreign malign actors and ensuring any individuals who engage in interference are inadmissible for entry to the U.S. or deportable if already present.
        • Providing more resources for investigations, criminal prosecutions, and other actions against CCP sponsored IP theft in addition to closing loopholes the CCP has exploited in our visa system.
        • Enhancing federal counterintelligence capabilities and bolstering Mandarin language capacity.
      • Technology
        • Taking a whole-of-government approach to assess the security risks posed by the PRC in 5G networks and increasing cooperation between the U.S. and its allies and partners in identifying and countering them.
        • Supporting the formation of a new D-10 group of leading democracies to develop and deploy 5G and subsequent generations and establishing a reimbursement program for companies to remove equipment from their communications networks that poses a national security risk.
        • Securing international leadership in the technologies of tomorrow, including AI, quantum, 5G, and autonomous vehicles.
        • Sanctioning PRC telecommunications companies engaged in economic or industrial espionage and any PRC entity that tries to hack COVID-19 researchers working on a vaccine.
      • Economics and Energy
        • Ensuring no U.S. taxpayer dollars support any PRC state- owned enterprises.
        • Harmonizing export control policies with our partners and allies to keep critical technologies, including semiconductor manufacturing equipment and R&D, from our adversaries.
        • Applying heightened scrutiny for investments in U.S. companies or operations from the PRC.
        • Strengthening trade relationships with our allies to establish U.S. standards and counter the PRC’s influence.
        • Pursuing trade policies that deter and protect against the PRC’s theft of IP.
        • Enforcing reciprocal treatment of PRC investment into the U.S. to restore symmetry in bilateral investment rules.
        • Ensuring PRC companies are held to the same financial disclosure standards as American companies when listing on U.S. stock exchanges.
        • Working to deepen our trade ties with Taiwan and resolving specific outstanding trade issues so the Administration can take steps to launch trade agreement negotiations once those issues are addressed.
        • Strengthening the Development Finance Corporation, Export Import Bank, and other government efforts to more robustly counter the CCP’s Belt and Road Initiative and debt trap diplomacy.
        • Continuing to advance U.S. energy security in order to be a global counter against the PRC, particularly on the nuclear energy front.
      • Competitiveness
        • Doubling the funding of basic science and technology research over the next 10 years.
        • Increasing coordination and funding for STEM education to create a more capable, skilled workforce.
        • Strengthening the protection of sensitive research at America’s colleges and universities and leading research institutions which includes restricting all federal employees and contractors from participating in foreign talent programs.
        • Requiring colleges and universities to annually report all donations from the PRC.

Further Reading

  • In U.S.-China Tech Feud, Taiwan Feels Heat From Both Sides” By Raymond Zhong — The New York Times. Not surprisingly, this island nation (or renegade province according to the People’s Republic of China (PRC)) is being squeezed in the trade war between the United States (U.S.) and the PRC. The main factor that has led to its central role is the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), which produces many of the semiconductors needed by both nations. However, with the U.S. tightening ever further the PRC’s access to this technology, Taiwan’s place in the technology world becomes ever more important. Many in. Taiwan see this technological prowess as a bulwark against a PRC-style takeover as in Hong Kong.
  • Beautiful, perk-filled and mostly empty: What the future holds for tech’s billion-dollar headquarters” By Heather Kelly — The Washington Post. Understandably, COVID-19 has caused many large companies to rethink their real estate footprint. Tech is no different as some companies have told workers to stay home until well into next year. Might the pandemic mark a paradigm shift and companies will require much less building and office space? Or will top companies continue their trend of building company towns of sorts?
  • Ad Tech Could Be the Next Internet Bubble” By Gilad Edelman — WIRED. This deep dive into the online advertising world peels back some of the fictions that have kept this multi-billion-dollar black box running. The question is what would happen to the world economy if it crashes?
  • What the antitrust proposals would actually mean for tech” By Emily Birnbaum — Protocol. This article surveys the waterfront on current antitrust proposals before Congress to address large technology companies.
  • Now You Can Use Instagram to Chat With Friends on Facebook Messenger” By Mike Issac — The New York Times. In a move sure not to make friends among those convinced Facebook is monopolistic, the platform has crossed a Rubicon of sorts by combining messaging platforms. Facebook is now allowing those using Messenger and Instagram to message users on the other platform. Soon, this will also be the case with WhatsApp. Critics claim Facebook is doing this to make the company harder to break up in an antitrust action.

© Michael Kans, Michael Kans Blog and michaelkans.blog, 2019-2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael Kans, Michael Kans Blog, and michaelkans.blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

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