May 10, 2019
Capitol Update

In this issue:


NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY SEEKS BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF STATUS OF ARTIFICAL INTELLIGENCE IN U.S.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology recently released a Request for Information (RFI) to help the agency better understand the current state of the federal government’s involvement with standards related to artificial intelligence (AI). This includes the current state of the standards landscape for AI, challenges and opportunities for further development of technical standards and tools, and suggested priority areas for research. With this requested information, NIST plans to develop a roadmap that will direct federal engagement in the standards development process for systems that use AI technologies.

The creation of an AI standards development plan originates from President Trump’s Executive Order (EO) on Maintaining American Leadership in AI that was released in February of this year. Among the EO’s objectives, it aims to “Ensure that technical standards minimize vulnerability to attacks from malicious actors and reflect Federal priorities for innovation, public trust, and public confidence in systems that use AI technologies; and develop international standards to promote and protect those priorities.” The EO also directs NIST to create “a plan for Federal engagement in the development of technical standards and related tools in support of reliable, robust, and trustworthy systems that use AI technologies.”

Responses to the RFI can be submitted in electronic or mail form. When submitting a response, all submissions must be received by May 31, and cite “RFI: Developing a Federal AI Standards Engagement Plan” in all correspondence.

Electronic responses can be sent to ai_standards@nist.gov in HTML, ASCII, Word, RTF or PDF form.

Written submissions can be mailed to: AI-Standards, National Institute of Standards and Technology, 100 Bureau Drive, Stop 2000, Gaithersburg, MD 20899.

To view the full RFI in the Federal Register, click here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/05/01/2019-08818/artificial-intelligence-standards

To view the February 2019 Executive Order Maintaining American Leadership in AI, click here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-maintaining-american-leadership-artificial-intelligence/


HOUSE MOVES TO RE-ESTABLISH OFFICE OF TECHNOLOGY ASSESSMENT AFTER 24 YEAR HIATUS

The House Committee on Appropriations recently released the FY2020 Legislative Branch funding bill. The bill funds the Legislative Branch of the federal government, which includes the House of Representatives, Congressional Budget Office and Capitol Police.

Among the provisions in the bill, it directs for $6 million in funding to re-establish the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) using the agency’s existing authorization. OTA was established in 1972 to provide Congress with nonpartisan analyses of complex technology issues. The overall mission of the agency was to ensure lawmakers were provided with the information they required on burgeoning technology issues, as well as objective analyses of the technologies’ impacts on policy matters. From 1974 to 1995, when the agency was defunded, OTA was governed by a bipartisan Technology Assessment Board comprised of six Senators and six Representatives.

Last year, Representative Bill Foster (D-IL) introduced a resolution last year to restore OTA funding. ¬†Earlier this year, Representatives Bill Foster and Mark Takano (D-CA) sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee requesting OTA funding for FY2020. In their letter they noted that “Congress is grappling with questions around how to encourage innovation while minimizing the potential harms of new technologies. A restored OTA could help Congress develop thoughtful, targeted policy around emerging technologies, including autonomous vehicles and face recognition.”

In discussing the renewed funding of OTA, Rep. Foster noted, “The Office of Technology Assessment is the ideal organization to provide critical insight and assessments into the effects technology will have on our economy and everyday lives and allow us to make informed policy decisions that benefit our constituents and the country.”

To view the FY2020 Legislative Branch funding bill, click here: https://appropriations.house.gov/sites/democrats.appropriations.house.gov/files/FY2020%20Leg%20Branch%20Sub%20Markup%20Draft.pdf

To view the letter Reps Foster and Takano sent to the House Appropriations Committee, click here: https://foster.house.gov/sites/foster.house.gov/files/Signed%20FY19%20OTA%20Approps%20Letter.pdf


PRESEIDENT LOOKS TO STRENGTHEN U.S. CYBER CAPABILITIES THROUGH NEW EXECUTIVE ORDER

President Trump recently released an Executive Order (EO) to build on current initiatives geared towards “grow[ing] and strengthen[ing]” US cyber workforce capabilities. The EO, titled Strengthening America’s Cybersecurity Workforce to Secure Our Nation and Promote Prosperity has three main priorities:

  • Strengthening our cyber workforce
  • Growing the workforce
  • Protecting our security

The overall goal of the EO is to standardize inter-agency cybersecurity rhetoric, build and strengthen a cyber-capable workforce, and create stronger buy-in from academia and federal agencies around addressing the cyber-capable workforce deficit.

“More than 300,000 cybersecurity job vacancies exist in the United States today,” President Trump said in a statement. “They must be filled to protect our critical infrastructure, national defense, and the American way of life.”

In an effort to incentivize cybersecurity development, the EO calls for the creation of a “President’s Cup” cybersecurity challenge that rewards top cyber personnel in the federal government. The EO also calls for additional recognition programs for personnel who have helped advance cybersecurity and cyber operations.

Adoption of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, or NICE framework, is widely encouraged. The NICE framework is a tool to assist in the recruitment, development and retention of cyber-capable talent in the federal government.

To view the EO in full, click here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trump-strengthening-americas-cybersecurity-workforce-secure-nation-promote-prosperity/


NEW JOINT INTERAGENCY TASK FORCE LOOKS TO IMPROVE RESEARCH ENVIRONMENT IN THE U.S.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) recently announced that it is creating a new interagency committee tasked with “improving research environments.” The committee will fall under the National Science and Technology Council, and will be co-chaired by the senior members of OSTP, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Department of Energy (DOE).

The committee has been tasked with improving integrity and capabilities of current research settings. Specific focus will be paid to:

  • Administrative burdens on federally-funded research;
  • Rigor and integrity in research;
  • Safe, inclusive, and equitable research settings; and
  • Protecting American research assets.

“Our Nation’s continued global leadership in science and technology depends upon attracting, empowering, and retaining our best and brightest talent. It’s critical we remove any obstacles in the way of the scientists, engineers, and inventors of today and tomorrow achieving their full potential,” said Dr. Kelvin K. Droegemeier, Director, The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “The NSTC’s new Joint Committee brings together the Federal government’s foremost leaders in science and technology and the S&T enterprise to elevate and tackle the most pressing challenges facing American researchers. I’ve made this one of my top priorities and remain committed to ensuring our research community is a model for the rest of the world.”

For more information on the new Joint Task Force, click here: https://www.aip.org/sites/default/files/aipcorp/images/fyi/pdf/nstc-joint-committee-announcement.pdf


NEW LEGISLATION SEEKS TO ACHIEVE A MORE DIVERSE STEM WORKFORCE

Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) recently introduced H.R. 2528: The STEM Opportunities Act. The bill is does a deep dive into the status of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in the U.S. and calls for more comprehensive data collection on a myriad of factors surrounding it. These data collections include the recipients of federal research awards to help reduce the effects of implicit bias in the review of grants moving forward.

The legislation also directs the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to develop guidance for universities and Federal laboratories to better assist them in identifying cultural or institutional hindrances or limitations to the recruitment, retention and success of underrepresented groups in both academic and federal STEM research careers. In this vein, the legislation also calls for the implementation of best practices to reduce and break down these barriers for good.

The House Science Committee also held a hearing on the legislation in which representatives from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Council on Education, Intel, and The Ohio State University provided testimony.

“Better demographic data on the students, researchers, and faculty receiving federal grants will help us identify and reduce barriers that prevent underrepresented groups from entering and advancing in STEM fields,” Ranking Member Lucas noted. “Our bill also focuses specifically on enhancing computer science education at Tribal Colleges and Universities, which will increase STEM opportunities and career prospects for American Indian and Alaska Native students. I appreciate all that Chairwoman Johnson has done to promote a diverse STEM workforce. I’m looking forward to working with her to move the STEM Opportunities Act and other STEM legislation for rural students and more in the coming year.”

To view the legislation in full, click here: https://science.house.gov/imo/media/doc/STEM%20Opportunities%20Act%205.7.19_forintro.pdf

To view an archived webcast of the hearing, click here: https://science.house.gov/hearings/achieving-the-promise-of-a-diverse-stem-workforce


ENERGY DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES $89 MILLION FOR INNOVATIVE MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGIES

The Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced $89 million in funding for projects that support the development of innovative advanced manufacturing technologies. This funding opportunity announcement (FOA) will be led by the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office. The FOA is broken down into three different topics to help DOE more effectively tackle various its various manufacturing priorities.

Topic 1 is Innovations for the Manufacture of Advanced Materials. These projects will focus on ways to better employ machine learning for applications such as the development of more effective batteries, phase change storage materials for heating and cooling applications, and new semiconductors that convert temperature differences into electricity. A primary focus of this topic is developing and scaling new, low-cost manufacturing processes to catalyze increased domestic battery manufacturing for vehicle and stationary applications.

Topic 2 is Lower Thermal Budget Processes for Industrial Efficiency and Productivity. This FOA is also soliciting new ideas for process intensification to reduce overall heating energy.

The third topic is Connected, Flexible and Efficient Manufacturing Facilities and Energy Systems. This topic solicits projects that delve into ways to make industrial power conversion equipment more efficient, as well as opportunities for converting process energy to electrical energy and more seamlessly integrate it with the electrical grid. This FOA is also soliciting advancements in combined heat and power that result in higher electrical efficiencies.

Concept paper submissions for this FOA are due June 20.

For further information and to submit an application, click here: https://eere-exchange.energy.gov/Default.aspx#FoaIdeaf73ef3-8146-47bd-9f99-a5d7af08a6b6

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