Friday, April 19, 2019

S 715 Introduced – Smart Manufacturing

Last month Sen. Shaheen (D,NH) introduced S 715, the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Act. The bill would require the Secretary of Energy to develop a smart manufacturing plan and to provide assistance to small- and medium-sized manufacturers in implementing smart manufacturing programs. The bill is almost identical to S 768 that Shaheen introduced in the 115th Congress; no action was taken on that bill.

Differences in the Bills

There are two differences between these two versions of the bill; one minor and one significant. The minor change is found in §7(g); the dates have been changed for the authorization of funding. It now reads: “$10,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2020 through 2023”; this is an expected change.

The significant change addresses my one major complaint about the previous version of this bill; it did not address cybersecurity issues. Two new subparagraphs were added to §4(b)(2) addressing the requirements for what items must be included in the Secretary’s plan. The new subparagraphs are:

(C) the use of smart manufacturing to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions in supply chains across multiple companies;
(D) actions to increase cybersecurity in smart manufacturing infrastructure;

Moving Forward

While Shaheen is still not a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to which this bill was assigned for consideration, one of her cosponsors {Sen. Alexander (R,TN)} is an influential member of that Committee. This greatly increases the possibility that the Committee will consider this bill during the session.

Since no regulatory authority is actually provided by the bill, the main sticking point for its adoption (either in Committee or on the floor of the Senate) is the inclusion of $10 million in appropriations for the grant program outlined in the bill. This is not a large amount of money in federal spending terms, but it is money that will have to come from somewhere; probably from other programs in the DOE budget.


The cybersecurity provision added to this bill is even more generic than the one I proposed in my posting of S 768. There are certain advantages in Congress employing vague, generic language in legislation; it allows regulatory agencies more leeway in adopting (and even more importantly) and later modifying actual regulatory or guidance language. While the process required to actually make such modifications is lengthy and time consuming, it would be much longer, if the agency had to rely on changes in congressional language to start the change process.

This time issue has been one of the problems cited whenever there is discussion about cybersecurity language or regulation. The cybersecurity risk landscape changes so quickly special care needs to be taken to ensure that outdated security measures are not locked into the regulatory process. Shaheen’s staff appears to have realized that problem and looks to have done their part to ensure that Congress is not the source of that kind of problem in this bill.

No comments:

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */