Policy IssuesPicture of US Capitol

The Computing Research Association has been involved in shaping federal public policy of relevance to computing research for more than fifteen years, and weighs in on multiple issues that can affect the computing researching community. The Issues pages below provide links to information on research, science, and technology policy, with emphasis on issues of interest to computing research. While not comprehensive, below are a number of issues that the Association has worked on over the past few years. As new issues arise, which require CRA’s input, they will be added. To find out specifics on what CRA has done, please read through our Policy Blog.

Information Technology R&D

Advances in information technology (IT) are changing our lives, driving our economy, and transforming the conduct of science. America is the world leader in IT innovation because of a complex interplay of universities, industry, and the federal government. Essentially every aspect of IT upon which we rely today – every billion-dollar sub-category of the IT industry – bears the clear stamp of federally supported university-based research. These relatively modest investments have played an essential role in the past, and will play an essential role in the future. CRA’s mission in Washington is to be the voice for the computer researching community and to make sure that Congress and Administration officials, regardless of party, are aware of the benefits of this publicly funded research.

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Defense R&D

Many of the technologies that have enabled our current economic prosperity and increased our national security have their roots in university research supported by DARPA. The Internet, graphical user interfaces, and global positioning systems are all the result of long-term, cutting edge, university based research, supported decades ago by DARPA. The CS community still receives a significant amount of funding from defense related sources and it is vital that the community continue to the how the money is spent and in which directions the research is being taken.

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  • President Biden Releases His “Skinny” Budget; Topline Numbers for Multiple Science Agencies Do Well; NSF Gets Over 19% Increase!
    Earlier today the Biden Administration released a high-level overview of their discretionary budget request for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22). Nicknamed a “skinny budget,” due to the fact that it only contains topline numbers for key departments and agencies and does not have many details on specific program requests, it does provide a look into the priorities of the new Administration. And from what we see in this request, research agencies across the federal government will do quite well under the Biden Administration’s plan.
  • Artificial Intelligence is Critical to National Security, Defense, U.S. Economy, and Worthy of Significant New Investment, Congressionally-chartered Commission Argues in Final Report 
    The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, a congressionally-chartered committee charged with reviewing AI and related technologies and making recommendations to address U.S. national security and defense needs, today released its final report, endorsing significant new investments in AI research, strategies for building the AI workforce, and guidance for using AI in warfare while upholding U.S. democratic values.
  • FY21 Update: Final Budget Numbers Released; Research Fares Well
    UPDATE (12/28/20): After threatening a veto, and risking a government shutdown, Trump signed the budget into law Sunday night. Fiscal Year 2021 is complete. Original Post: When last we left the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget process, we were waiting for Congress to get the final bill across the finish line. It took them two […]
  • National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act Inches Closer to Passage
    Last week the long awaited conferenced National Defense Authorization Act (or NDAA; the defense policy bill) was publicly released. Regular readers will recall that earlier in the year that the House Science Committee's National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act (HR 6216) was included in the House version of the NDAA. At that time, there was no equivalent in the Senate NDAA and it was unclear if it would survive the conference negotiations. Fortunately, the AI Initiative Act was included in the conference agreement released last week.
  • Department of Defense FY 2021 Request: With Few Exceptions, this is a Very Bad Budget
    In our continuing series following the Trump Administration’s Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget request, we now turn to the Department of Defense (DOD). The DOD’s Science and Technology (DOD S&T) program is made up of three accounts: 6.1 (basic research), 6.2 (applied research), and 6.3 (advanced technology development). These accounts are themselves made up of individual accounts for each of the three services (Army, Navy, and Air Force), as well as a Defense Wide account. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is a section under the Defense Wide account. Unfortunately, with few exceptions, most of these accounts are cut under the Trump Administration’s plans for FY21.

CS Education & IT Workforce

Having a highly skilled IT workforce is crucial to America’s economic future, to ensuring our national security, and to maintain our leadership in the world research and development community. In order to assess that workforce, it is crucial that we understand the number of science and engineering degrees granted to American students annually. The flagship publication of CRA is the annual Taulbee Survey, which tracks information on the enrollment, production, and employment of Ph.D.s in computer science and computer engineering and in providing salary and demographic data for CS and CE faculty in North America. CRA takes an active role in disseminating the information collected in the Taulbee Survey to policy makers and other decision makers in Washington. As well, CRA is an active voice for Computer Science education, working with other organizations, both inside and outside the Computer Science community, in order to better prepare Americans for life in a IT-integrated world.

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Cybersecurity R&D

Information technology systems underpin key industries such as telecommunications and financial services, and also play a vital role in the smooth functioning of critical infrastructure and services, such as transportation systems, the electric power grid, and emergency response capabilities. As computer scientists, CRA is concerned how the Federal government approaches the cybersecurity needs of the country and must always be vigilant that the issue is handled with thought and care. We are particularly concerned the research funds at the relevant Executive Branch agencies, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), are adequate to meet the ever-changing needs of this fast-moving field.

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Internet of Things

Computing technology is rapidly entering another disruptive phase; namely, the Internet of Things. In the same way that the Internet revolutionized access to ideas and information, advances in networked sensing and hardware has revolutionized the way computers can observe and interact with the physical world. Sensing and sensor information processing will have a profound impact. Coupling these systems with advances in machine learning brings dramatic new capabilities including the ability to capture and process tremendous amounts of data, predict behaviors, activities, and the future and manipulate the physical world in response. Physical interaction with “smart systems” will become a common way to manipulate the world around us. Applications of IoT include creating Smart Cities and Smart Homes, in which existing “dumb” infrastructure like roads and buildings becomes intelligent, greatly increasing efficiency and productivity. IoT will transform health care, providing improved, pervasive, and cost-effective health care to millions, including our increasing population of the elderly. This is an area the U.S. cannot afford to cede leadership, and our leadership in this area is not assured. Competition from Asia and the European Union is significant with advances in Smart Cities and Smart Homes outpacing the U.S. The Federal government must be proactive in driving the necessary research, standards, and public/private partnerships to ensure that the greatest benefit is reached with the least negative consequences. Efforts like the Smart Cities and Connected Communities framework developed by NITRD and the recently announced NSF/Intel partnership to secure the IoT should be supported and buttressed where possible.

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  • Computing Researchers Make the Case for Intelligent Infrastructure at Congressional Briefing
    On a day when President Donald J. Trump is expected to use his State of the Union address to unveil his administration’s plans for nationwide infrastructure investment, a panel representing computing researchers in academia and industry told a group of congressional staffers and other stakeholders that while those infrastructure needs are critical, it would be […]
  • NSF Funded IoT Security Research Excites at the 2017 CNSF Exhibition
    On May 16th, the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF), an alliance of over 140 professional organizations, universities, and businesses, held their 23rd Annual Capitol Hill Exhibition. CNSF supports the goal of increasing the federal investment in the National Science Foundation’s research and education programs, and the exhibition itself is a great way to show members of Congress and their staff what research the American people have funded.
  • New Report Identifies Fundamental Research Needs for Advancing Internet of Things & Cutting-Edge Innovations
    A new report, titled, "Rebooting the IT Revolution: A Call to Action," produced by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) and the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC), calls for, "a targeted and coordinated government initiative similar to that which sparked the semiconductor revolution fifty years ago."

Impediments to Research

Impediments to CS research are many. Visa issues and other immigration problems; deemed export restrictions; federal requirements on public access to research data (Open Data) and journal publications (Open Access); and legislation targeting key science funding agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, are all examples of dangers to research that have come about in Washington. While many of these are unintended, or are wrapped up in larger issues outside the CS community’s expertise, it is still important to monitor what is happening and try to bring attention to bear whenever possible.

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  • Three New Immigration Rule Changes from the Trump Administration; All Likely to Impact the Computing Research Community
    The Trump Administration continues to issue regulatory rule changes that impact the US higher education and research communities. Regular readers of the Policy Blog will recall that earlier this year the Administration issued multiple proclamations and other policy changes, with regard to legal immigration that impacted the US research community in some way. While the Administration backed off in some of these instances, they never did so completely; in fact, the rhetoric and desire to make lasting changes to the American immigration system remained.
  • Trump Administration Rescinds Foreign Student Visa Rule
    The Trump Administration on Tuesday reserved course and rescinded its change that would have stripped visas from international students whose courses move exclusively online during the pandemic.
  • CRA Statement on Presidential Proclamation Concerning Visas for Chinese Scholars in the U.S.
    We oppose the banning of any foreign student or researcher unless there is clear evidence of their personal connection to wrongdoing. Indiscriminate large-scale banning of students and researchers from any particular country deprives the U.S. research enterprise of contributions by international scholars, most of whom are not involved in IP theft or espionage.