New laws call on Homeland Security to consolidate its data and force agencies to improve their websites.
If you thought Capitol Hill spent the entire week locked in a battle over government funding, you’re right. But spending packages aside, lawmakers managed to move forward on a handful of bills in the final days of the 115th Congress that federal tech leaders need to know about.
Here’s what you might have missed while following the “will they, won’t they” holiday shutdown:
Government websites will start working a whole lot better in 2019.
President Trump on Thursday signed into law the 21st Century IDEA, requiring federal agencies to upgrade their public websites to meet minimum standards for accessibility, security and ease of use.
The measure, sponsored by Silicon Valley Democrat Rep. Ro Khanna, gives agencies one year to revamp their existing sites and a 180-day grace period before all new digital services must meet the criteria. Departments must also determine which in-person and paper-based services can be digitized and create an action plan for doing so.
On Wednesday, the president also ordered the Homeland Security Department to consolidate its myriad data sets and information systems into a single, consistent data ecosystem. The law, shepherded through Congress by Reps. Will Hurd, R-Texas, Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., would make it easier for analysts to access and crunch data across the department, which could give them a leg up in spotting potential terrorist threats.
At the 11th hour, House and Senate lawmakers both agreed to a legislative package called Strengthening and Enhancing Cyber-capabilities by Utilizing Risk Exposure Technology Act, or the SECURE Technology Act, that subsumed a trio of bills aimed at strengthening Homeland Security’s cyber defenses and protecting the government’s supply chain. The measure included text from:
- The Hack the Department of Homeland Security Act, which would stand up the first agency’s first enterprise-wide bug bounty program.
- The Public-Private Cybersecurity Cooperation Act, which would mandate Homeland Security officials set up a vulnerability disclosure program with clear guidelines around what sites hackers can probe and how to report bugs.
- And the Federal Acquisition Supply Chain Security Act, which would establish a federal council to assess potential cyber risks in the government’s supply chain.
Both chambers also passed a measure that would require the White House to create an advisory board on quantum technology and lay out a 10-year plan for advancing the country’s quantum research and development efforts. The National Quantum Initiative Act, sponsored by outgoing House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, would mandate the National Science Foundation and Energy Department fund basic research in the field, which they’re both already doing.
The president signed both into law Friday.
And There's One More
The House on Saturday also approved the OPEN Government Data Act as part of a broader bill to support evidence-based policymaking. The legislation would require agencies to make all non-sensitive data accessible in a machine-readable format and appoint a chief data officer to oversee all open data efforts. The bill passed the Senate on Wednesday.
Editor's note: This article was updated after Congress approved bills Saturday.
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