Press Release: 2019-08-12

TechNet Letter to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on the Fiscal Year 2020 NDAA

TechNet Letter to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on the Fiscal Year 2020 NDAA

August 12, 2019

The Honorable Adam Smith (D-WA)
Chairman
House Committee on Armed Services
2264 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Mac Thornberry (R-TX)
Republican Leader
House Committee on Armed Services
2208 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable James Inhofe (R-OK)
Chairman
Senate Committee on Armed Services
205 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Jack Reed (D-RI)
Democratic Leader
Senate Committee on Armed Services
728 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Smith, Chairman Inhofe, Republican Leader Thornberry, Democratic Leader Reed, and Distinguished Members of the House-Senate National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Committee:

As you work toward a final 2020 NDAA conference report, TechNet renews our commitment to advancing this critical legislation in a manner that furthers the tech industry’s longstanding partnership with the military in advancing U.S. national security objectives.  Because technology is increasingly vital to a strong national defense — and with cyber threats growing each day — we want to ensure our men and women in uniform have access to the most cutting-edge technologies available to defend the American people.

TechNet is the national, bipartisan network of innovation economy CEOs and senior executives.  Our diverse membership includes dynamic American businesses ranging from startups to the most iconic companies on the planet and represents over three million employees and countless customers in the fields of information technology, e-commerce, the sharing and gig economies, advanced energy, cybersecurity, venture capital, and finance.

Just as technology powers every sector of our economy today, it is also key to keeping our military ahead of the evolving global threats we face.  Today and in the future, achieving technological superiority is the key to deterring aggression from our adversaries and ensuring that any time our service members enter the battlefield, they do so with an overwhelming advantage.  Thus, it is imperative that this and future NDAA legislation continue to make significant investments in research and development of cutting-edge innovations such as artificial intelligence, 5G, and quantum computing, among others.  Ultimately, achieving superiority in these emerging technologies is essential for U.S. national and economic security — and the U.S. tech sector has a vital role to play.

A comprehensive national defense strategy also recognizes that cyberspace is growing ever more contested as our adversaries’ technological capabilities have advanced.  Cyberattacks by state and non-state actors threaten international and national security, democratic processes, the global economy, the free flow of ideas and information, and the safety, security, and privacy of individuals.  Our approach to cybersecurity must focus on deterrence, modernization, and resilience.  To this end, we support efforts by lawmakers to strengthen U.S. cyber capabilities and invest more in cyber research.  

We appreciate all the work done thus far on the NDAA by lawmakers in both chambers.  At this critical juncture in the process, we write to share our recommendations on the following key provisions that are of concern or in conflict between the House- and Senate-passed versions of the NDAA:

  • S. 1790, Title II, Subtitle B, Section 212: Establishing secure 5G networks for warfighters and providing funding to start this effort at two Air Force installations.  We have concerns about existing R&D provisions related to 5G, which would allow DOD to work on and manage non-federal spectrum that the private sector has already invested billions of dollars in developing.  Granting this new authority to DOD would mark a significant policy shift by the federal government given that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has traditionally overseen and managed non-federal spectrum.  To be clear, we support measures to encourage the U.S. military to utilize 5G technologies, but are concerned by this proposed power shift and its implications.
  • S. 1790, Title V, Subtitle F, Section 577: Improving employment opportunities for military spouses by making it easier for them to transport their occupational licenses when they move and extending the authority for the service branches to reimburse licensure and certification costs arising from a permanent change of station.  We welcome this policy in light of innovations in online platforms that help facilitate work opportunities for these individuals.  It should be included in the final conference report.
  • H.R. 2500, Title V, Subtitle E, Section 550K: We urge conferees to remove language that was added during the floor debate as an amendment by Representative Katie Porter (D-CA).  This language would expand coverage of the Military Lending Act (MLA) to all veterans and military surviving spouses. We are concerned that this proposal is not workable from a technology standpoint or enforceable because a viable database for these groups to reference does not exist.
  • H.R. 2500, Title XVI, Subtitle B, Section 1615: Preserving language authorizing an increase of $5.2 million above the administration’s request for the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency to acquire advanced cyber threat detection sensors, hunt and response mechanisms, and commercial cyber threat intelligence to ensure Defense Industrial Base networks remain protected from nation state adversaries.

In addition to these four aforementioned items, we reiterate our support for the following objectives that passed as part of S. 1790, the Senate’s NDAA:

  • Title VIII, Subtitle A, Section 801: Preserving the Senate-passed NDAA’s pilot program on intellectual property evaluation for acquisition programs.
  • Title VIII, Subtitle E, Section 852: Preserving the Senate-passed NDAA’s establishment of special pathways for rapid acquisition of software applications and upgrades.
  • Title X, Subtitle E, Section 1035: Directing development and implementation of a policy for transitioning data and applications in support of the DOD’s cloud strategy.
  • Title XLII, Section 4201:
  • Preserving the Senate-passed NDAA’s increase of $57.5 million above the administration’s request for cyber basic and applied research.
  • Preserving the Senate-passed NDAA’s funding authorization for the Defense Digital Service to support the modernization of DOD IT systems
  • Title XLVII, Section 4701: Preserving the Senate-passed NDAA’s increases of approximately $50 million above the administration’s request for advanced manufacturing, materials, and printed circuit boards.
  • Preserving the Senate-passed NDAA’s efforts encouraging the development and deployment of Department of Defense (DOD) AI systems in support of national security, including funding for Defense Innovation Unit AI research (Title XLII, Section 4201), extending the National Security Commission on AI (Title X, Subtitle E, Section 1042), and expanding AI research by the Department across several areas.
  • Funding for science and technology efforts to implement the National Defense Strategy, especially in the areas of AI, 5G, quantum computing, cybersecurity, and university research.
  • Developing a cyber roadmap for DOD’s science and technology activities.
  • We also appreciate that the Senate-passed NDAA highlights the importance of DOD military information capabilities to counter adversary messaging and reaffirms the importance of our alliances across Europe and Asia.  Closer security and economic ties with these allies and trading partners are vital for the security and economic prosperity of the American people.

We would also like to express our support for the following measures in H.R. 2500:

  • Title II, Subtitle B, Section 230: Requires the DOD to assess the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workforce for organizations within it and identify the types and quantities of STEM jobs needed to support future mission work to ensure the military does not experience a knowledge or readiness gap.
  • Title II, Subtitle B, Section 230B: Improves coordination between the federal government, industry, and academia to ensure global superiority of the U.S. in quantum information science necessary for meeting national security requirements.
  • Title II, Subtitle C, Section 243: Directs the DOD and Air Force to establish a Quantum Information Science Innovation Center and authorizes $10 million for that purpose.

As lawmakers work to reconcile differences between each chamber’s NDAA, we encourage you to continue working with TechNet and our member companies to ensure the tech industry can remain a valuable partner in providing cutting-edge technologies to our service men and women.  We also urge you to ensure that this NDAA includes strong intellectual property protections and furthers DOD’s ability to leverage all existing commercial technologies and best practices in order to effectively meet mission needs and put taxpayer dollars to the most effective use.

Thank you for considering our perspective as you take up this important legislation.  We welcome the opportunity to serve as a resource as work on the NDAA continues this year.

Sincerely,

Linda Moore
TechNet President and CEO