National Science Foundation Seeks Feedback on Major Cyber Research Priorities Update

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The previous version of the plan focused on incentivizing private sector research and expanding diversity in the cyber workforce.

The National Science Foundation and other science agencies are launching a major rewrite of the government’s cybersecurity research and development plan, according to a Federal Register notice that’s scheduled to be published on Tuesday.

In advance of the rewrite, which will be completed in 2019, the National Science Foundation is seeking public and industry feedback on new technologies that could improve the “security, reliability, resiliency, and trustworthiness of the digital infrastructure,” according to the notice

The foundation is also interested in changes the nation should make in cyber training, education and workforce development to prepare for the impact on cybersecurity of new technologies, such as quantum computing and artificial intelligence, the notice states.

The National Science Foundation is managing the rewrite on behalf of the National Science and Technology Council, which includes federal cabinet secretaries and agency leaders with significant science and technology responsibilities.

The document will be an update of a 2016 cybersecurity research and development strategic plan, which was mandated by 2014 legislation. That plan focused on near and medium-term efforts to improve U.S. cyber protections and to reduce adversaries’ asymmetric advantages in cyberspace.

The 2016 report included a long-term goal of efficiently deterring adversary cyber strikes and consistently attributing those attacks.

The report’s recommendations included incentivizing the private sector to cooperate with federal agencies on cyber research and speeding the process for private companies to commercialize cyber technology developed through federal grants and other funding.

The report also urged efforts to expand the federal workforce, including incentivizing more women and minorities to enter the field.

In the upcoming Federal Register notice, the Science Foundation also asks about progress since the 2016 plan, areas that should receive less focus in the rewrite and new priorities that have emerged since 2016.  

The Science Foundation announcement comes less than two months after the Trump administration released its National Cyber Strategy, which calls for prioritizing cybersecurity research and development efforts.

It also comes as a Homeland Security Department advisory committee is finalizing its “moonshot” report, which calls for a “concerted national research and product development strategy” to advance artificial intelligence, quantum computing and other technologies that can help dramatically advance the nation’s cybersecurity.

The deadline for feedback is Jan. 15.