Monday, May 30, 2016

HR 5312 Introduced – Cyber Research

Last week Rep. LaHood (R,IL) introduced HR 5312, the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Modernization Act of 2016. The bill would make a number of amendments to the High-Performance Computing Act of 1991 (15 USC Chapter 81); mostly replacing the words ‘high-performance computing’ with ‘networking and information technology’ which changes the focus of this federal research and development program. There are some changes, however, that may be of specific interest to readers of this blog.

Cyber-Physical Systems and Security

The bill would add two new definitions to §5503:

‘Cyber-physical systems’ means physical or engineered systems whose networking and information technology functions and physical elements are deeply integrated and are actively connected to the physical world through sensors, actuators, or other means to perform monitoring and control functions;

‘Networking and information technology’ means high-end computing, communications, and information technologies, high-capacity and high-speed networks, special purpose and experimental systems, high-end computing systems software and applications software, and the management of large data sets;

The failure to include ‘cyber-physical systems’ in the definition of ‘networking and information technology’ means that most of the remainder of this bill remains focused on IT systems not control systems. There are, however, two places in the newly renamed ‘Networking and Information Technology section (§5511) where cyber-physical systems are specifically addressed in the outline of an on-going federal research program.

First it calls for research on increasing the “understanding of the scientific principles of cyber-physical systems and improve the methods available for the design, development, and operation of cyber-physical systems that are characterized by high reliability, safety, and security” {new §5511(a)(1)(J)}. This would be basic research on cyber-physical systems.

Next, the bill would expand that level of research into applications by calling for “a research framework to leverage cyber-physical systems, high capacity and high speed communication networks, and large-scale data analytics to integrate city-scale information technology and physical infrastructures” {new §5511(a)(1)(M)}.

Moving Forward

While LaHood is not a member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, most of his seven co-sponsors are (including both the Chair and Ranking Member) so this bill will have no problem moving forward in Committee. In fact, the first markup of the bill was held before it was introduced.

Similar versions of this bill (HR 967 and HR 3834) were introduced in the last two Congresses and were passed out of Committee. Neither ever made it to the floor of the House for consideration. I do not see anything that would indicate that this bill has any better chance, particularly since it was introduced so late in the Session.


There are two interesting things in this bill. The first is that the definition of ‘cyber-physical systems’ is written so that it is specifically not the same as the definition of an industrial control system. This definition encompasses a small subset of ICS that incorporate such a large number of sensors and actuators that a large-scale data processing operation is required for successful operation. I do not think that any system in use today qualifies. Rather we are looking at the type system that would be employed for autonomous transportation systems or true smart-grid operations.

The second item of interest here is that the bill would remove §5543 that authorizes separate spending for the program. That section has not been updated since 2004 and thus no spending authorized since 2007, but it at least provided some sort of basis for funding the program. Without that provision we are left with the §5511(c) requirement that the individual agencies in the federal government that have responsibilities under the program provide for their funding out of otherwise appropriated monies. So much for this being an important program.

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