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10 stories that shaped tech policy in 2013

Kenneth Corbin | Jan. 2, 2014
From the NSA surveillance revelations to the troubled government healthcare website to a variety of issues that didn't make the mainstream news, here are the top tech policy stories that played out in 2013.

Immigration and Skilled Foreign Workers
Following Obama's reelection, it appeared that there might be a real chance to move immigration reform legislation through Congress in 2013, a matter of keen interest in the tech sector, where industry lobbyists press for policies that would raise the caps on highly skilled foreign workers. Tech leaders have complained that they are unable to recruit enough workers with the requisite skills and training, calling for enhancements to STEM education along with higher caps on H-1B visas.

In late June, the Senate approved a comprehensive bill that would have increased the H-1B cap, but the issue has languished in the Republican-controlled House. Some observers hold out hope that House leaders might take up immigration reform in 2014, though many in the conservative wing of the GOP are strongly opposed to provisions creating a pathway to citizenship. On that issue the Republicans are split, creating a dilemma for party leaders in an election year. But with the budget deal reached in late December, lawmakers will be free from some (though not all) of the deadline-driven fights over fiscal issues, potentially clearing the way for movement on other domestic issues.

Cybersecurity, like online sales taxes, is an enduring issue on the congressional tech policy agenda, but after another year of hearings debating the subject, 2013 ends with no significant new security laws on the books, leaving legislative measures to improve the sharing of threat information between the public and private sectors or strengthen the government's role in safeguarding critical infrastructure for a later date.

That inaction comes amid a widespread acknowledgement among policy makers and industry leaders that the breadth and sophistication of the threats continue to grow. The administration received something of a wake-up call in November, however, when a presidential advisory committee delivered its review of the government's cybersecurity posture. That report found that the "federal government rarely follows accepted best practices," recommending that agencies phase out antiquated technology, streamline regulations improve the process of sharing threat information, among other proposals.

"Cybersecurity will not be achieved by a collection of static precautions that, if taken by government and industry organizations, will make them secure," the committee concluded. "Rather, it requires a set of processes that continuously couple information about an evolving threat to defensive reactions and responses."


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