Commerce Department Commits to Funding Solutions to Technology Threats

Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said more funding will go toward cybersecurity concerns.

Commerce Department Commits to Funding Solutions to Technology Threats
Photo of Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in 2015, used with permission.

June 9, 2021—The Commerce Department plans to devote extra funding and attention toward mitigating national security threats posed in the evolving tech industry in the coming year, said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo on Monday.

Addressing the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, Raimondo said the department is focusing its 2022 fiscal budget on addressing funding concerns surrounding cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and vulnerabilities in the telecommunications industry.

Raimondo says that the Commerce Department intends to set standards that address the national security concerns raised by lawmakers.

“Here’s what I do know: when the standards get baked, they define the whole industry,” she said. “And if we aren’t the ones making those standards, that is a real problem.”

She says that the United States needs to lead the world in regulating the tech industry, because whoever is first will shape the industry for the rest of the world.

Cybersecurity concerns

Following high-profile cybersecurity attacks on software company SolarWinds and Colonial Pipeline, she says the department is taking the threat of ransomware and cybersecurity seriously.

In an op-ed published last month, Raimondo wrote, “This latest [Colonial Pipeline] attack should serve as a clarion call for organizations across the country to shore up their cyber defenses and get ahead of future threats.”

She told the committee that cybersecurity was a concern of the private sector, but that the federal government need to put pressure on the private sector to take it more seriously in the future in order to prevent similar attacks on our national infrastructure.

Following the attack last month, President Joe Biden signed an executive order on improving the U.S.’s cybersecurity capabilities. The order will establish a cybersecurity review board tasked with analyzing cyberattacks in order to find preventative techniques.

A cybersecurity official in the Department of Homeland Security said this month that the federal government needs more consistent funding from Congress to address these threats.

Artificial intelligence and Chinese influence

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, said the Covid-19 pandemic revealed the U.S.’s lack of manufacturing capacity as it is unable to respond to the pandemic, and supply chains were interrupted. Raimondo noted the implications of this for the technology industry, taking especial interest in the development of artificial intelligence technology.

She says that the use of semiconductors are essential in artificial intelligence research, and that while the U.S. is dependent on Taiwan for these semiconductors, China has invested in their domestic manufacturing in order to provide the semiconductors themselves. She says that, should another disruption to the U.S.’s supply chain occur, China could take the lead on this emerging technology.

Vulnerabilities in the telecom market

Raimondo stressed the importance of investing in American manufacturing, citing the telecommunications market as reliant on the sector. She says that much of the equipment that telecom companies use is provided by the Chinese company Huawei, in large part due to the relatively low cost of the company’s equipment versus European rivals Nokia and Ericsson.

Because of the potential for data collection and spying, she called this practice a “serious national security risk,” and that the U.S. needs to invest in domestic manufacturing in order to protect our privacy from China which could act in bad faith.

On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill that would inject additional funding to boost industrial production and technology research to protect against the influence of China. The bill will go to the House for a vote. .

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