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VIEWPOINT: Don’t surrender America’s digital advantage

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During a recent policy debate, U.S. Sen. Chris Coons expressed his concerns about Congress’ proposed approach to regulating the digital economy. Most notably, Coons highlighted the possibility of unintended consequences for American competitiveness and “our digital democracy principles on the world stage.”

Rep. Chris Carney

Despite Coons’ concerns and those raised by other Democrats in the Senate, the proposal’s amended language makes no attempt to address the issues raised and to protect American values in cyberspace.

The approach taken would jeopardize national security, damage America’s innovation ecosystem, and weaken our world-leading tech companies as they face stiff competition from foreign adversary companies from areas of the globe hostile to democracy and our national interests.

While much of the international community has come to the aid of Ukraine as Putin continues his illegal war, the Kremlin continues to sow as much division and chaos as possible through cyberattacks and misinformation campaigns.

China aspires to supplant the United States as a global power and stands as our most formidable, most capable adversary, especially when it comes to technological prowess. In fact, China is investing more than $1 trillion to reduce the gap between our tech capabilities.

For the U.S. to maintain and strengthen its superiority in these fields as countries like China try to close the gap, policymakers and tech industry leaders need to forge alliances, not perceive one another as enemies. Lawmakers must commit to developing critical technologies that support a strong, reliable deterrence strategy against our adversaries.

America’s largest tech companies are franchise players for us in this battle for global security. Not only are they some of the largest investors and developers of advanced technologies, but they also serve as key drivers of economic growth and prosperity, which help fund our investments in security and allow U.S. companies to compete and win globally. 

Just recently, the Department of Defense’s outgoing chief data officer, David Spirk, called for urgent investments in quantum computing. China is already focused on developing this emerging technology, which could render all corporate and military cybersecurity features useless. The Cloud Security Alliance recently launched a countdown to April 14, 2030, the date the organization estimates a quantum computer will be able to break our current encryption and data security infrastructure.

American cloud service providers, which service and secure both public and private sector digital capabilities, have begun acquiring cybersecurity startups to accelerate our innovations towards this technology. Unfortunately, if passed, the proposals advancing in Congress would make those acquisitions unlawful, ultimately slowing innovation and leaving our data less secure. 

In these times where the balance of power is consistently challenged by adversaries whose values we do not share, government and industry need to create a united front. To that end, Senator Coons makes a striking point – the current bills before Congress not only weaken our ability to fight back, but ultimately threaten to undermine our tech leadership, leaving a vacuum to be filled by anti-democratic foreign foes.

Before advancing these measures any further, regulators and politicians from both sides of the aisle should fully examine the unintended consequences, as they could be dire.

Chris Carney is a former U.S. Navy commander and Pennsylvania congressman (2007-11), who is a board member of the American Edge Project and senior policy advisor at Nossaman, LLP.

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