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A look at tech amendments in the 2023 House NDAA

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, questions then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter Aug. 1, 2012, in Washington, D.C. (Glenn Fawcett/Department of Defense)
July 19, 2022

The House passed its version of the annual national defense authorization bill 329-101 late Thursday with several new tech amendments packed into the massive policy legislation.

The 2023 National Defense Authorization Act received several hundred amendments spanning topic areas from making sure only American-grown flowers are on display at the White House to giving the mayor of the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., control of the district’s National Guard.

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said during floor remarks on July 13 the legislation and policies within should help the Pentagon make sure systems are secure and develop and take advantage of newer technologies such as drones and AI technologies.

“I don’t think there’s been a time in the history of warfare where things have been changing as rapidly,” Smith said on the house floor ahead of the bill’s debates.

“We’ve certainly seen that play out in the battlefield in Ukraine but also in other fights that have happened in smaller conflicts in Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Middle East. You have got to develop the new, best, innovative technology.”

The bill calls for more transparency about the Defense Department’s electromagnetic spectrum strategy, which came out in 2020, followed by a classified implementation plan in 2021. The long-awaited strategy aims to “unify Department of Defense-wide electromagnetic spectrum enterprise activities,” create a new governance structure to ensure accountability, “develop a continuous process improvement culture, and promote policies that support Department of Defense electromagnetic spectrum capabilities and operations.”

Defense leaders have become increasingly concerned with the electromagnetic spectrum, particularly when it comes to electronic warfare, from training to operations.

The amendment, which was co-sponsored by Reps. Rick Larsen, D-Wash. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., outgoing chair of the HASC’s Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems Subcommittee; and Don Bacon, R-Neb., calls on the defense secretary to provide an unclassified version of the strategy and implementation plan “in all future updates to the plan.”

Additionally, implementation should “strengthen governance reforms to ensure necessary senior operational leadership; and provide a coherent response to persistent gaps in joint electromagnetic spectrum operations” including doctrine, personnel, training, materiel, facilities, and policy.

The House also requires the Defense Department to create a public website detailing its purchase and use of “location data generated by Americans phones and their internet metadata.”

Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, said the amendment, which he co-sponsored, was a “transparency measure” that would require DOD to outline which agencies have purchased or used American location data, phone records, internet browsing data, etc.

“Our amendment does not reveal any classified information. Purchasing sensitive information about Americans via data brokers and other sellers allows the federal government to potentially circumvent fourth amendment warrant requirements. So who is purchasing it is of interest,” he said on the floor July 13, noting that a recruiting entity using data to “micro-target” prospective service members is “something different than warrantless data collection or broad surveillance.”

Some other tech-related amendments that made it into the final House bill include:

  • A report on risks of low-earth orbit space debris and plans to minimize it.
  • To expand a Space National Guard’s presence to locations with “a significant space launch or mission control facilities” – an amendment offered by Florida Rep. Darren Soto (D).
  • A review of Space Force staffing requirements for current and future cyber squadrons, specifically, with respect to “sourcing of existing billets of the Space Force that are optimal for transfer to cyber squadrons, and the administrative process required to shift such billets to cyber squadrons.”
  • Requires the military department secretaries and assistant secretary of defense for special operation and low-intensity conflict to develop a pilot program “to deploy dedicated X-band small satellite communications technologies that may support current and future requirements of special operations forces.”

The bill, which is often a vehicle for non-defense related policy, also included several cybersecurity provisions for federal agencies, including the requirement for the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency to maintain a public clearinghouse for cyber resources pertaining to commercial satellite systems.

Other amendments of interest include:

  • Creating a reward program, worth up to $2,500 for service members “whose novel actions, invention, or technical achievement enables or ensures operational outcomes in or through cyberspace against threats to national security.”
  • Establishing the ​​”Department of Defense Cyber and Digital Service Academy” – a scholarship program for individuals who want to study cyber or other tech-related fields at a school that’s been designated as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Education. Recipients would get expenses like books and room and board covered for up to five years while in school and have an obligation to work for DOD for the same amount of time they were in the program.
  • Developing a National Digital Reserve Corps so private sector cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and other digital tech expercans can temporarily work in the federal government.
  • Banning the Pentagon from contracting with companies that are found to have unfair labor practices in the three years prior to a contract award.
  • Ensuring that U.S. courts can go after foreign actors that launch cyberattacks, including unauthorized computer access or resulting dissemination of information, through an exception in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.


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