Presidential Advisers Expected to Push Software-Defined Networking for Secure Comms

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Senate Commerce Committee is stockpiling legislation for coordinated investments in the tech.

An upcoming meeting of presidential advisers promises an update on the importance of software-defined networking to national security and emergency preparedness as pressure builds for the administration to support coordinated investment in the technology. 

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is inviting public comment through Feb. 18 on the issue in advance of a Feb. 20 meeting of National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, according to a Federal Register notice. 

Responding to a White House request, NSTAC published a September report of recommendations for advancing the resilience of the information and communications technology, or ICT, ecosystem.   

The NSTAC, which is comprised of ICT industry leaders, highlighted software-defined networking as an opportunity to escape the clutches of Huawei and other suspect Chinese suppliers of radio access network equipment and recommended “creat[ing] the right conditions for strong domestic investment for manufacturers and innovators of” technology critical to national security and emergency preparedness.

The technical recommendations for securing the ICT ecosystem sprang from a Nov. 2018 NSTAC report outlining an ambitious cybersecurity “moonshot” initiative. The plan was to “Make the internet safe and secure for the functioning of Government and critical services for the American people by 2028,” by establishing a cybersecurity moonshot council in the White House, among other things. The head of the council would liaise with Congress to drive the epic levels of funding necessary to achieve the goals.

NSTAC put the need for investment and coordination in the context of the oodles of money China is spending on fifth-generation networking and other emerging technologies. 

Since then, senior members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have taken up the mantle and bills calling for greater coordination and investments in technology are starting to pile up in the Senate Commerce Committee.

In June, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., introduced the 5G Leadership Act with Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and others, which would fund the replacement of Chinese networking equipment to the tune of $700 million, establish “an interagency body that includes appropriate national security expertise,” and increase U.S. participation in standard-setting bodies.

Earlier this month, Warner sponsored the Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act with Republicans like Florida’s Marco Rubio, which would put money from spectrum auctions specifically toward research and development in SDN. 

And last Tuesday, Wicker introduced the Industries of the Future Act with Sen. Gary Peters, D-M.I., which calls on the administration to establish a council that would advise the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy on how, among other things, it can strengthen national security by investing in 5G and other emerging technology.

That bill would direct the administration to develop a plan to double the baseline investment in federal government Industries of the Future programs by 2022, and to increase civilian spending on Industries of the Future to $10 billion by 2025, Wicker said in a recent hearing announcing the legislation.