The House passed major defense funding legislation last week, and provisions related to cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, the digital workforce, and 5G wireless capabilities are the top tech-related amendments that made the bill.
The National Defense Authorization Act funds the Department of Defense’s 2022 budget, and both parties voted Thursday to pass the bill and increase the budget by nearly $25 billion, to roughly $768 billion.
“This year‘s defense bill will ensure the United States remains the decisive leader in the technological revolution by developing and deploying emerging technologies to amplify our power and our ability to disrupt threats before they can reach U.S. soil,” according to a summary of the bill by the House Armed Services Committee staff.
The bill’s new policies and additional spending will fortify the U.S. military’s technological advantage by ensuring the government has the tools to confront the growing threat of China and Russia, the House Armed Services Committee said in a statement last week.
Furthermore, the legislation includes “unprecedented levels of investment in emerging technologies, including AI, quantum computing, hypersonic, and autonomous systems,” according to a summary of the bill by Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee.
One of the largest new tech-related areas of spending in the bill is nearly $1 billion in additional cybersecurity investments in people, programs, and technologies to curb the rapid increase in ransomware attacks that have occurred recently.
The recent series of attacks on the computer systems of the federal government, the Colonial Pipeline, and the meat producer JBS have brought awareness to the need for increased cybersecurity protections within governments and businesses.
The bill would require the secretary of defense to update Congress on the state of cybersecurity within his agency, along with recommendations on how to help tackle the problem of cyberattacks. Another provision in the legislation would create a cyber counseling program for Small Business Development Centers.
A related provision in the bill would allow for a new cyber apprenticeship program between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency for members of the military and veterans to transition to civilian life through the cybersecurity training.
“We’ve already started talking about how we could implement apprenticeships at CISA,” CISA Director Jen Easterly said at a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing last week. “I think we need to be as creative as possible in all our approaches to deal with the deficit that we have across the country and then across the federal cyber workforce.”
One of the popular amendments to the bill, supported on a bipartisan basis, would create a National Digital Reserve Corps, providing private-sector tech employees the ability to be a part of short-term initiatives for the federal government.
Another area of significant increased defense funding is artificial intelligence, or technology that leverages computers and machines to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of humans.
The bill requires that artificial intelligence and digital readiness be incorporated into the Defense Department’s platforms, processes, and operations, in order to achieve a state of military AI readiness by 2025. The bill also requests that the heads of the military branches partake in skills gap assessments to find any possible shortcomings when it comes to artificial intelligence, software development, and data science.
The bill also attempts to boost the U.S.’s capabilities and leadership with 5G wireless technology by pushing private companies to play a role in 5G expansion. It also creates a new pilot program to expedite 5G telecommunications on military facilities through the deployment of new telecom infrastructure.
Meanwhile, an amendment to the legislation that would create internet balloons for wireless communications abroad in affected areas, such as Cuba, did not make it into the bill. Amendments specifically targeting TikTok and its Chinese tech giant owner ByteDance, to ensure it is banned from federally owned devices and should face sanctions, also did not make the final legislation.
The Defense-spending legislation will still need to pass the Senate in order to proceed, but this is expected to happen in the next few weeks, before going to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.
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Original Author: Nihal Krishan
Original Location: Cybersecurity, AI, and 5G: Top tech features in new defense spending bill
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