The bill would create an Office of Science and Technology task force to come up with a strategy for increasing participation in standards settings bodies and counter China’s sway.
Legislation introduced by a bipartisan pair of senators would require the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s director to form a task force to produce a long-term strategic plan to put the U.S. at the forefront of emerging technology-centered standards-setting processes.
Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, on Thursday put forth the Technology Standards Task Force Act of 2021. The four-page bill was shared with Nextgov on Friday.
Standards setting involves producing norms or requirements to guide technology adopters in their usage.
This new legislation directs OSTP to steer a task force with members representing the Labor, Commerce, Treasury, Transportation, Justice and Energy departments—among others. The group will have other responsibilities on top of creating that longer-term standards strategy over one year’s duration. The task force would need to “assess which technology standards (such as fifth and sixth-generation wireless networking technology and artificial intelligence) have the greatest effect on national security and economic competitiveness,” the bill notes. The task force would also be mandated to examine how standards setting can be misused by governments, implement a plan to ensure credibility with international institutions and develop a list of allies to execute the strategy that’s developed.
Engagement with the academic and private sectors in that work is encouraged.
The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
Following its introduction, Portman told The Washington Post in a statement that the U.S. “has fallen behind in terms of participating in many standards-setting bodies related to emerging technology, while China’s membership has surged.” Still, the concern isn’t new for both him or Cortez Masto. Last year, the two teamed up to craft bipartisan legislation commissioning a study to help ensure the Chinese government isn’t exerting undue influence on international standards-setting. It was signed into law.
“Protecting American jobs and international leadership by countering the Chinese government’s efforts to influence technology and standards-setting has been a longstanding priority for Senator Cortez Masto,” the senator’s spokesperson told Nextgov in an email Friday.