By Cara Lombardi, Executive Vice President, Qorvis MSLGROUP
Technology and its role in the presidential campaign seemed to be everywhere you looked this election season. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the conversation we were hoping for. Instead of substantive IT policy discussions, coverage fixated on WikiLeaks, private servers, hacked emails and early morning Tweetstorms. While pages and pages could be (and have been) written about each of those topics, I want to focus more on technology policy and what the next four years under a Donald Trump presidency may look like.
There is no doubt that one of the biggest technology priorities during a Trump presidency will be cybersecurity. If 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that cyberattacks can be so much more than just consumer data and credit card information – there is the threat of state actors using technology to attack America. Trump focused much of his technology talk during the campaign trail on cybersecurity, and outlined a plan for what he intends to do about it when he takes office in January.
According to his campaign platform, one of his first actions will be to establish a Cyber Review Team comprised of military, law enforcement officials and individuals from the private sector. This team will conduct audits of the county’s current cyber landscape and provide recommendations on how to address vulnerabilities. He has advocated for cyber awareness training for all government employees, and increased coordination between federal, state, and local law enforcement in their responses to cyber threats.
Trump has also called for more of a focus on cybersecurity when it comes to national defense. He will look to the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for recommendations on how to improve U.S. Cyber Command, focusing on both offensive and defensive cyber strategies. Advanced cyber capabilities will play an important role in how the DoD, DHS and IC realize Trump’s vision to rebuild our military and promote regional stability.
But what about the rest of tech?
What does a Trump administration mean for other technology issues such as high-tech exports, patent reform, IT modernization and the Internet of Things? Today, it is fuzzy. Take IT modernization for example. The Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act, which was co-authored by Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) and Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), passed in the House earlier this fall. The Senate did not act on it before the election recess and is not likely to in a lame-duck session since it will be focused on passing a continuing resolution. Essentially the bill calls for funds for government agencies to use to replace or update their outdated IT systems to deliver smarter, more user-friendly services to the American people. However, there is some disagreement in terms of where the funding will come from, and with a Trump administration focused on cutting costs and creating a leaner, more efficient federal government, the bill could face some opposition.
But let’s be clear: the foundation for good cybersecurity practices lies in an up-to-date IT infrastructure, so one would presume that Trump would favor federal IT modernization to support his cybersecurity policies. Trump, similar to most newly elected presidents, will look for some easy legislative wins during his first 100 days in office – legislation that has bipartisan support, such as MGT, is a great place to start.
One area of uncertainty is around technology as it relates to the economy and education. Generally speaking, technology – cybersecurity in particular – is a growing field with many employment opportunities. In fact, more than 200,000 cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. are unfilled and postings have been up 74 percent over the past five years (Source). Filling these jobs requires candidates to have the proper education. Trump has spoken at length about the America economy and its need for growth, as well as the need to create more jobs for the American people.
Because of that, there is a good chance that Trump would support legislation designed to grow employment in the technology and cybersecurity sectors or provide education and training to adequately equip people for these jobs. However, it likely won’t be a major priority given that it is not currently a point of discussion in his plan for job creation as opposed to infrastructure and traditional manufacturing.
In conclusion, what we know for sure about technology policy under President Trump is that there will be an increased focus on cybersecurity, particularly when it comes to national defense. There is a good chance he will support federal IT modernization, even if only to provide an adequate foundation for his cybersecurity policies. And, implementing policies that encourage technology jobs and education appears to be consistent with Trump’s desire to grow the American economy. Unfortunately, for many other technology issues, including the growing concern that the FCC’s net-neutrality regulation will be in jeopardy, the future is unclear. We can only hope that Trump will view technology and innovation as ways to advance America’s place in today’s competitive global market.
Cara specializes in tech and government IT. Served as vice president and general manager at Market Access International. Proud Virginia Tech Hokie.