June 24, 2019

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LETTER: TechNet Outlines Commitment to Furthering Partnership with Military

June 24, 2019

The Honorable Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Senate Majority Leader
317 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Charles Schumer (D-NY)
Senate Democratic Leader
322 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Leaders McConnell and Schumer:

As the full U.S. Senate debates the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week, TechNet would like to renew 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 for the foreseeable 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.  The fiscal year 2020 NDAA makes 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 proposals in the NDAA to strengthen U.S. cyber capabilities and invest more in cyber research.  

We appreciate all the work done thus far by Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI), and members of the Senate Armed Services Committee to advance the legislation that the full Senate is now considering.  In particular, we have a keen interest in continuing to work with the Senate on the following objectives contained in the NDAA:

  • 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.
  • Strengthening Department of Defense (DOD) efforts to develop and deploy AI systems in support of national security, including funding for Defense Innovation Unit AI research, extending the National Security Commission on AI, and expanding AI research by the Department across several areas.  To this end, we encourage the full Senate to maximize research and development funding on AI as Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) has proposed in an amendment modeled after the bipartisan Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act (AI-IA) he introduced earlier this year with Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Brian Schatz (D-HI).
  • Authorizing an increase of $57.5 million above the administration’s request for cyber basic and applied research.
  • Developing a cyber roadmap for DOD’s science and technology activities.
  • Establishing secure 5G networks for warfighters and providing funding to start this effort at two Air Force installations.  However, 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.
  • Authorizing increases of approximately $50 million above the administration’s request for advanced manufacturing, materials, and printed circuit boards.
  • Establishing special pathways for rapid acquisition of software applications and upgrades.
  • Directing development and implementation of a policy for transitioning data and application in support of the DOD’s cloud strategy.
  • Authorizing funding for the Defense Digital Service to support the modernization of DOD IT systems.
  • Encouraging a pilot program on intellectual property evaluation for acquisition programs.
  • Highlighting the importance of DOD military information capabilities to counter adversary messaging.
  • 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.
  • We also appreciate the committee-passed NDAA reaffirming 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.

In each of the last 58 years, the Senate has passed a National Defense Authorization Act.  As the Senate debates the NDAA this week and considers amendments, we encourage senators 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 the Senate 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 to the full U.S. Senate and eventually the House-Senate Conference Committee as work on the NDAA continues this year.

Sincerely,

Linda Moore
TechNet President and CEO

CC: The Honorable Jim Inhofe, Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee

The Honorable Jack Reed, Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

All Members of the U.S. Senate

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