Press Releases

WASHINGTON– Today, Virginia U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, urged President Joe Biden to fully consider how the Trump Administration’s decision to relocate U.S. Space Command may affect Intelligence Community (IC) dependencies and missions and the country’s ability to maintain superiority in space 

On January 13, 2021, the Administration announced that Huntsville, Alabama would be the permanent headquarters of U.S. Space Command. Following this announcement, reports surfaced that President Donald Trump politicized the process, choosing to relocate U.S. Space Command from its provisional headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 

In a letter to President Biden, Bennet and Warner, members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, cite the collaboration and interoperability between the IC and Department of Defense, and urged the administration to review the process by which this decision was made and to ensure intelligence community missions and capabilities are fully considered.

“The Committee has encouraged collaboration in the space domain between the IC and the Department of Defense (DoD) in order to increase the unity of effort and effectiveness in space operations. In Colorado, important investments have been made in recent years to enhance this collaboration and interoperability, in particular at the National Space Defense Center (NSDC),” wrote the senators. “It is critical that any decision to move Space Command from its current location take into account the potential effects of such a move on the operational integration between the IC and DoD space communities at NSDC and at other joint sites in Colorado.”

The senators also noted the importance of spending resources in a manner that effectively meets the accelerating pace of threats to U.S. space capabilities. Colorado is already home to many specialized defense and intelligence civilian employees and contractors. The cost of relocating personnel, as well as the high costs for constructing a new Space Command headquarters, should be considerations for permanently keeping it in Colorado Springs. 

“Furthermore, we are keenly aware of the threats in space and the criticality of maintaining U.S. superiority in the face of an evolving threat landscape,” the Senators continued. “According to a 2019 estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, construction costs for the new command headquarters could be as high as $1.1 billion. Workforce disruption is another key consideration, given the many defense and intelligence civilian employees and contractors working on space programs in Colorado at the highest levels of classification. Space is a critical national security issue, and we cannot squander time, talent, or money on unnecessary expenditures or delays.” 

The text of the letter is available HERE and below.  

Dear President Biden:

We write concerning the Trump administration’s decision to move United States Space Command from Colorado Springs, Colorado, to Huntsville, Alabama. As members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, we are concerned this decision did not take into account how such a move may affect Intelligence Community (IC) dependencies and missions. We therefore request you review the process by which this decision was made, and to ensure IC equities are fully considered.

The Committee has encouraged collaboration in the space domain between the IC and the Department of Defense (DoD) in order to increase the unity of effort and effectiveness in space operations. In Colorado, important investments have been made in recent years to enhance this collaboration and interoperability, in particular at the National Space Defense Center (NSDC). It is critical that any decision to move Space Command from its current location take into account the potential effects of such a move on the operational integration between the IC and DoD space communities at NSDC and at other joint sites in Colorado.

Furthermore, we are keenly aware of the threats in space and the criticality of maintaining U.S. superiority in the face of an evolving threat landscape. We have consistently made this a priority in recent years, with careful oversight of dollars spent and an eye toward the allocation of scarce resources among national security priorities. According to a 2019 estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, construction costs for the new command headquarters could be as high as $1.1 billion. Workforce disruption is another key consideration, given the many defense and intelligence civilian employees and contractors working on space programs in Colorado at the highest levels of classification. Space is a critical national security issue, and we cannot squander time, talent, or money on unnecessary expenditures or delays.

We therefore ask you to review the parameters and method by which this decision was evaluated, to ensure we are appropriately valuing existing collaboration and interdependencies between the IC and DoD space communities in Colorado, taking advantage of the current co-location of these communities and pools of expertise, and spending resources in a manner that effectively meets the accelerating pace of threats to our overhead space capabilities.

We appreciate your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, joined Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and a bipartisan group of Senate colleagues in sending a letter to President Biden requesting that he fund the initiatives to restore semiconductor manufacturing to American soil from the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act that were signed into law as part of the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act. 

They wrote, “We write today to encourage you to prioritize securing funding to implement the initiatives authorized in the CHIPS for America Act that were enacted into law as part of the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. 

“We would specifically request you consider joining us in support of funding levels that are at least the authorized amounts proposed in the original bill as you work with Congress on a package of policies to better compete with China and how best to strengthen our country’s economic competitiveness and resiliency as well as national security.”

He was joined on the letter by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AK), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), James Risch (R-ID), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Angus King (I-ME), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Todd Young (R-IN), Gary Peters (D-MI), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tim Scott (R-SC), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY). 

The full text of the letter is here and below.

Dear President Biden,

We write today to encourage you to prioritize securing funding to implement the initiatives authorized in the CHIPS for America Act that were enacted into law as part of the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (referred to as the ‘CHIPS provisions’). We would specifically request you consider joining us in support of funding levels that are at least the authorized amounts proposed in the original bill as you work with Congress on a package of policies to better compete with China and how best to strengthen our country’s economic competitiveness and resiliency as well as national security. 

While signing your Executive Order on America’s Supply Chains on February 24, 2021, we were pleased to hear your comments: “bipartisan work has already been done…We need to make sure these supply chains are secure and reliable. I’m directing senior officials in my administration to work with industrial leaders to identify solutions to this semiconductor shortfall and work very hard with the House and Senate.” We agree that the United States must build on the bipartisan Congressional efforts to authorize the CHIPS provisions and now swiftly move to fund these programs so they can be implemented and begin to address the current supply-chain vulnerabilities that threaten our national and economic security and ensure our nation’s continued global leadership in this critical technology. We are especially encouraged by the opportunity to do emergency mandatory funding for implementation of CHIPS as part of a competitiveness package the Senate is currently compiling, and would welcome your support in that effort.

The United States cannot wait to provide these resources over the years ahead. The halted production lines for consumer technology, auto manufacturers, truckers, and other critical industries due to a semiconductor shortage further highlights the pressing need to act quickly and fund the enacted bipartisan provisions. 

In your Build Back Better initiative, you recognized the value of restoring critical supply chains to U.S. soil to help revitalize our domestic manufacturing capacity and create good-paying jobs. Full funding and implementation of CHIPS would reinvigorate our economy by creating high-paying jobs, developing talent pipelines for American workers, and increasing technological innovation. The CHIPS provisions authorize funding for manufacturing, R&D and job-training programs, with a focus on creating pathways for Americans to acquire the skills necessary for these jobs, including expanding employment opportunities for disadvantaged workers. Ensuring these provisions are fully funded would support thousands of American jobs and create a ripple effect throughout the economy, benefiting countless industries, communities and working families.

In addition to enabling sustainable economic growth today, funding the CHIPS provisions is a top national security priority. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has aggressive plans to reorient and dominate the semiconductor supply chain, pouring over $150 billion in semiconductor manufacturing subsidies and investing $1.4 trillion in their efforts to become the dominate global technological power. Even full funding of the originally filed CHIPS provisions pales in comparison to the investments being made by the CCP, which speaks to why consideration of an even higher level of funding is worthwhile.

The United States must also work with our allies and strategic partners to out-scale the CCP in manufacturing capabilities for advanced semiconductors. If we lose these highly-skilled jobs and know-how to China, the United States will never recapture them. Further, we risk dependence on a strategic competitor for the advanced semiconductors that power our economy, military, and critical infrastructure.

As you develop your FY 2022 budget request, we encourage you to include some initial investments to support semiconductor R&D and manufacturing at agencies like Commerce, DOD, DOE, and NSF as intended by CHIPS. 

Finally, should you explore executive actions to address this urgent semiconductor matter, we encourage you to continue pursuing a technology neutral approach.

We are committed to meeting the national imperative of securing our critical supply chains and look forward to working with you and your Administration to achieve this vital objective.

Sincerely, 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner, D-VA. and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., questioned eight digital advertising exchanges about the possible sale of Americans’ personal information to foreign-owned companies, in a series of letters sent yesterday with Senators Bill Cassidy, R-La., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. 

The senators are seeking information about the sharing of Americans’ data through “real time bidding” – the auction process used to place many targeted digital advertisements. For most online ads, although only one company wins the auction, hundreds of firms participating receive information about the potential recipient of the ad, including device identifiers and cookies, web browsing and location data, IP addresses, and age and gender.

“Few Americans realize that some auction participants are siphoning off and storing ‘bidstream’ data to compile exhaustive dossiers about them. In turn, these dossiers are being openly sold to anyone with a credit card, including to hedge funds, political campaigns, and even to governments,” the senators wrote. 

“This information would be a goldmine for foreign intelligence services that could exploit it to inform and supercharge hacking, blackmail, and influence campaigns,” they continued.

The letter was sent to AT&TIndex ExchangeGoogleMagniteOpenXPubMaticTwitter and Verizon.

The senators asked for answers to the following questions by May 4, 2021:

1.     Please identify the specific data elements about users, their devices, the websites they are accessing, and apps they are using that you provide to auction participants.

2.     Please identify each company, foreign or domestic, to whom your firm has provided bidstream data in the past three years that is not contractually prohibited from sharing, selling, or using the data for any purpose unrelated to bidding on and delivering an ad.

3.     If your firm has contractual restrictions in place prohibiting the sharing, sale, or secondary use of bidstream data, please detail all efforts to audit compliance with these contractual restrictions and the results of those audits.

4.     Please identify each foreign-headquartered or foreign-majority owned company to whom your firm has provided bidstream data from users in the United States and their devices in the past three years.

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WASHINGTON – Today, a bipartisan group of U.S. national security leaders penned a letter to the Biden administration urging it to strongly consider the provisions laid out in the bipartisan Democracy Technology Partnership Act. The bill – introduced by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and a bipartisan group of Senators earlier this month – aims to develop a partnership and strategy among democratic countries to compete against growing technological strength and influence by the Chinese Communist Party and other authoritarian regimes.  

The letter is penned by a broad bipartisan cohort of national security experts including, Ash Carter, former U.S. Secretary of Defense; Jim Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence (DNI); Richard Danzig, former U.S. Secretary of the Navy; Michèle A. Flournoy, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; Richard Fontaine, Chief Executive Officer of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS); Stephen J. Hadley, former U.S. National Security Advisor; Michael V. Hayden, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA); Admiral William H. McRaven, retired U.S. Navy four-star Admiral and former Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command; Stephanie O’Sullivan, former Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence; and Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of New America and former Director of Policy Planning at the U.S. Department of State.

“We believe the bill offers an important idea: creating a diplomatic mechanism to execute a national security strategy, which places technology competition and international partnerships at its center,” the bipartisan national security leaders wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and U.S. National Security Advisory, Jake Sullivan. “The strength of the United States – politically, economically, and militarily – will depend on the ability of the United States and like-minded democratic countries to lead in the development and deployment of emerging and critical technologies. Significant advances are occurring across a variety of technology sectors, including wireless telecommunications, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, semiconductors and quantum computing, with major implications for every aspect of American life.” 

In the letter, the national security leaders describe how the Democracy Technology Partnership Act would help set international standards and norms on emerging and critical technologies. 

For the better half of a century, the United States led in scientific research and the development of transformational technologies, translating into significant economic and military benefits for the American people. This leadership also enabled us to set the rules of the road governing the use of new technologies in ways that reflected our democratic values,” they continued. “However, in recent years, as U.S. leadership has eroded, the People’s Republic of China has stepped up its efforts to dominate critical and emerging technologies. Their approach has included heavily subsidizing Chinese companies, conducting forced technology transfers, investing significantly in research and development, heavily promoting the global adoption of Chinese technologies, and leveraging international standard setting bodies. They have used these technologies for undemocratic ends internally, such as censorship and surveillance, and exported these technologies, with their illiberal values, abroad.”

“Given the size of the PRC and the scale of its investments, the United States cannot protect its technologies nor compete on its own. The world’s major liberal-democratic nations must work together to help set international standards and norms, conduct joint research, coordinate export controls and investment screening, and make collaborative investments abroad. The Democracy Technology Partnership Act outlines an important vision and strategic plan for how the United States should collaborate with friends and allies on a technology strategy while promoting and protecting our common interests. We ask for your strong consideration of its provisions,” they concluded.

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

 

The Honorable Antony J. Blinken

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20520

 

Mr. Jake Sullivan

National Security Advisor

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Washington, D.C. 20500

 

Dear Secretary Blinken and Mr. Sullivan:

We write to convey our support for the bipartisan Democracy Technology Partnership Act (S.604), recently introduced by Senators Warner, Menendez, Schumer, Young, Cornyn, Sasse, Rubio and Bennet. The bill establishes an office that would seek to create a new diplomatic partnership of the world’s tech-leading democracies to coordinate technology policy, standards, and development. We believe the bill offers an important idea: creating a diplomatic mechanism to execute a national security strategy, which places technology competition and international partnerships at its center.

The strength of the United States – politically, economically, and militarily – will depend on the ability of the United States and like-minded democratic countries to lead in the development and deployment of emerging and critical technologies. Significant advances are occurring across a variety of technology sectors, including wireless telecommunications, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, semiconductors and quantum computing, with major implications for every aspect of American life.   

For the better half of a century, the United States led in scientific research and the development of transformational technologies, translating into significant economic and military benefits for the American people. This leadership also enabled us to set the rules of the road governing the use of new technologies in ways that reflected our democratic values.  

However, in recent years, as U.S. leadership has eroded, the People’s Republic of China has stepped up its efforts to dominate critical and emerging technologies. Their approach has included heavily subsidizing Chinese companies, conducting forced technology transfers, investing significantly in research and development, heavily promoting the global adoption of Chinese technologies, and leveraging international standard setting bodies. They have used these technologies for undemocratic ends internally, such as censorship and surveillance, and exported these technologies, with their illiberal values, abroad.

Given the size of the PRC and the scale of its investments, the United States cannot protect its technologies nor compete on its own. The world’s major liberal-democratic nations must work together to help set international standards and norms, conduct joint research, coordinate export controls and investment screening, and make collaborative investments abroad. 

The Democracy Technology Partnership Act outlines an important vision and strategic plan for how the United States should collaborate with friends and allies on a technology strategy while promoting and protecting our common interests. We ask for your strong consideration of its provisions. 

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), John Cornyn (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Todd Young (R-IN), today introduced legislation to develop a partnership and strategy among democratic countries to compete against growing technological strength and influence by the Chinese Communist Party and other authoritarian regimes. The Democracy Technology Partnership Act would establish a U.S. interagency office at the State Department, tasked with creating a partnership among democratic countries to help set international standards and norms, conduct joint research, and coordinate export controls and investment screening on emerging and critical technologies.

“The Chinese Communist Party is working to surpass the U.S. technologically and economically and to export their technologies globally. In order to compete and counter the expansion of Chinese dominance in critical technology sectors, we need to create a strategy that leverages the power of American partnerships to protect and advance our technological edge,” said Sen. Warner. “This bipartisan legislation will help foster partnerships among the U.S. and like-minded democratic countries to better protect and compete against China in critical emerging technologies while helping set global rules, standards, and protocols for the market.”

“After four years of consistent failure under the Trump administration, one of our most important challenges will be to forge a coherent new national security strategy, particularly on cybersecurity and emerging technology, led by our values, centered on our democratic allies and partners, and implemented with consistency,” said Sen. Menendez. “The Democracy Technology Partnership Act is a bipartisan recognition that we have entered a new era of technology and geo-economic strategic competition with Beijing, and an acknowledgement that we will not overcome this challenge without technology partnerships and shared human ingenuity. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to invest in a broad diplomatic and security architecture that restores our nation’s position as the world’s greatest innovator and allows us to actually outperform China.” 

“Both Democrats and Republicans know that competing with China is one of the biggest challenges in the 21st Century,” said Majority Leader Schumer. “For years, I have been committed to confronting the Chinese government for cheating and stealing its way to economic growth. That’s why I am proud to help champion the bipartisan Democracy Technology Partnership Act, which will give like-minded democracies the edge needed to compete with the Chinese Communist Party. This initiative is an important next step in our mission to boost American competitiveness, leverage our alliances abroad and fight China’s predatory practices.”

“It’s no secret the Chinese Communist Party wants to reshape the emerging technology landscape to benefit their authoritarian aims. It is essential that the United States and our like-minded democratic allies around the world work together to set global standards that uphold our universal values,” said Sen. Young. “This bipartisan legislation marks a significant step forward for the United States in our ongoing effort to out-compete China and I look forward to working with my colleagues to see this passed into law.”

“Winning the long-term tech race with the Chinese Communist Party is foundational to our strategic relevance in the world. Chairman Xi has laid out an ambitious plan to displace the United States as the world’s preeminent superpower and install his version of techno-authoritarianism in its place. The United States cannot meet this challenge alone and must lead our freedom-loving allies and partners to craft creative solutions to our shared technological challenges. This bill is a good step towards that goal,” said Sen. Sasse.

“It’s critical for democracies around the world to collaborate in research and development as well as manufacturing of advanced technologies to compete against China,” said Sen. Rubio. “Too many nations fall prey to the trap of incentives associated with Chinese tech that only results in lost privacy, reduced autonomy, and greater dependence on Beijing.  The U.S. must lead likeminded countries in establishing and supporting alternatives that are safer and technologically more advanced.  I hope this bill will push the Administration to lead in this space.”    

“The Chinese Communist Party is working rapidly and strategically to dominate in technologies that will underpin our economic and national security, and to export its illiberal technology across the globe,” said Sen. Bennet. “America’s competitiveness and security require an international technology strategy that leads with our values and allies. This bipartisan approach will empower the United States and our democratic partners to compete with China and set the rules of the road for next generation technologies.”

Leadership and competitiveness in emerging and critical technologies will determine the political, economic, and military strength of countries in the 21st century. Currently, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is using every tool in its arsenal to achieve dominance in key technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, semiconductors and more. Its approach to technology includes heavily subsidizing Chinese companies, investing extensively in research and development, incentivizing foreign countries to adopt its technologies, leveraging international standard-setting bodies to advance its vision, imposing unfair restrictions on foreign companies, and accessing technologies through illicit means. 

Simply put, the U.S. cannot counter these practices or compete with the PRC and other authoritarian governments on its own. To compete against these technological advancements, the Democracy Technology Partnership Act would establish an interagency office at the U.S. Department of State to lead in the creation of a new partnership among the world’s tech-leading democracies. The partnership between the democratic countries would ensure that these technologies advance democratic institutions, norms, and values, contributing to global peace and prosperity.  

Specifically, the interagency office would be responsible for:

·         Creating a technology-based partnership of democratic countries to develop harmonized technology governance regimes and to fill gaps on specific technologies;

·         Identifying existing, and when needed, new multilateral mechanisms to advance the objectives of the Technology Partnership; 

·         Coordinating with such countries regarding shared technology strategies; and

·         Developing strategies to provide alternatives to countries who are at risk of acquiring technologies from authoritarian regimes. 

The criteria for participation in the global partnership – as laid out by the legislation – requires that the country be a democratic national government with a strong commitment to democratic values, have an economy with advanced technology sectors, and have a demonstrated record of interest or expressed interest in international cooperation and coordination with the U.S. on defense and intelligence issues. 

In addition, the Democracy Technology Partnership Act creates a $5 billion International Technology Partnership Fund to support joint research projects between government research agencies, universities, technology companies and other businesses from partner countries, as well as to make technology investments in third-country markets. The legislation also creates a Public-Private Board, called the International Technology Partnership Advisory Board, made up of individuals with demonstrated expertise in the fields of emerging technologies and international trade to provide advice and recommendations to the Technology Partnership Office and on the bill’s implementation. 

“I commend Senators Warner and Menendez for this bold new legislation, which will help ensure that democratic values and partnerships are at the center of America’s strategy to win the global technology competition. The new Technology Partnership they are proposing would be a powerful diplomatic tool to counter authoritarian influence. It would also promote new avenues of cooperation between democratic nations to secure a better future for us all,” said Madeline Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State.

“The Technology Partnership, as proposed by Senators Warner, Menendez, Cornyn, Young, Sasse, and Schumer, is a worthy initiative, rightly identifying the most important challenge facing the United States for the next decade.  The legislation wisely creates a multilateral mechanism for the United States to coordinate with like-minded, democratic countries to counter and compete with the People’s Republic of China.  As the PRC works to dominate critical emerging technologies, essential to U.S. military, political and economic strength, democracies must come together to coordinate technology policy that reflects democratic values,” said Stephen J. Hadley, former U.S. National Security Advisor.

“The Democracy Technology Partnership Act outlines an important vision and strategic plan for how the United States should collaborate with allies and friends on a technology strategy which promotes and protects our common interests.  Its placement at the State Department, with interagency representatives and a public-private board, ensures that the effort will be a key part of America’s global diplomatic strategy, tapping into the great talent available across the U.S. government and in the private sector.  This is an innovative approach to one of the toughest challenges facing the United States and our community of democracies,” said Ambassador Marc Grossman, Vice Chairman of the Cohen Group, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.

“The United States’ leadership in technology and innovation is at risk, as the PRC works to surpass the US in technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and data science, quantum information systems, biotechnology, 5G, and semiconductor technologies. The United States needs a national strategy for innovation, and this legislation outlines an essential element in that larger strategy: a coalition of democratic countries to coordinate on defense of technologies, set standards, and develop common policies for emerging technologies,” said Admiral William H. McRaven, U.S. Navy (Retired).  

A copy of the bill section-by-section can be found here. A two-page summary can be found here. A copy of the bill text can be found here.

Sen. Warner, a former telecommunications executive, has been a leading voice on issues related to the national security challenges facing the United States as a result of China’s growing power and influence. Last week, Sen. Warner participated in a bipartisan meeting with President Biden on securing U.S. supply chains for critical and essential goods to help counter China’s efforts to expand its influence and economic power. Sen. Warner has also successfully pushed for the inclusion of his bipartisan Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act in the FY21 defense bill to encourage and support U.S. innovation in the race for 5G dominance.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a declassified report on the killing of Jamal Khashoggi:

“For too long, the United States failed to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the brutal murder of journalist, dissident, and Virginia resident Jamal Khashoggi. I’m encouraged to see the new administration taking steps to rectify that by releasing this long-overdue congressionally mandated report into his killing.”

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WASHINGTON — Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Vice-Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) filed legislation (S. 640) to extend Section 3610 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act from its current expiration of March 31, 2021 to September 30, 2021. The provision allows a critical lifeline for federal agencies to maintain contractors, who would otherwise be at risk for layoff or furlough due to the pandemic. Warner and Rubio also sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) requesting that Section 3610 be extended “as freestanding legislation, as we have introduced, or as a provision on the next appropriate legislative vehicle.”

A coalition of organizations wrote in support of Warner and Rubio's efforts to extend Section 3610, highlighting that “numerous organizations representing the breadth of the government industrial base, including manufacturers and service providers, from large companies to small businesses, have emphasized the importance of the 3610 authority and the need for an extension.” 

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell,

We write to ask that Section 3610 Federal Contractor Authority of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act be extended to September 30, 2021, as freestanding legislation, as we have introduced, or as a provision on the next appropriate legislative vehicle.

This authority was last extended in the omnibus appropriations act for fiscal year 2021 and is due to expire on March 31, 2021. We believe extending this authority given the prolongation of the global pandemic is critically important to the resilience of our national security industrial base. Section 3610 has proven to be an important means of providing necessary relief during the pandemic to critical Intelligence Community industry partners—and particularly to small businesses that provide highly specialized capabilities—to retain key national security capabilities.

We look forward to working with you on this important matter.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a former technology entrepreneur, released a statement after the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law held hearing entitled “Reviving Competition, Part 1: Proposals to Address Gatekeeper Power and Lower Barriers to Entry Online”:

“Social media has undeniably reshaped our entire culture and the ways we communicate, and has enormous benefits. However, we have seen that as platforms’ collective influence has grown, so have barriers to entry for smaller platforms. We must level the playing field for startups and make it easier for them to compete on equal terms with the biggest platforms. That is why I introduced bipartisan legislation, the Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act, to encourage market-based competition to dominant social media platforms by requiring the largest companies to make user data portable – and their services interoperable – with other platforms, and to allow users to designate a trusted third-party service to manage their privacy and account settings, if they so choose. I am pleased to see the subcommittee and its witnesses address this important issue and am looking forward to continuing the conversation on how to enhance competition online.”

In addition to the ACCESS Act, Sen. Warner has written and introduced a number of bills designed to protect consumers and reduce the power of giant social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google. Among these are the Safeguarding Against Fraud, Exploitation, Threats, Extremism and Consumer Harms (SAFE TECH) Act – legislation to reform Section 230 and allow social media companies to be held accountable for enabling cyber-stalking, targeted harassment, and discrimination on their platforms; theDesigning Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight And Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act – bipartisan legislation to require data harvesting companies to tell consumers and financial regulators exactly what data they are collecting from consumers and how it is being leveraged by the platform for profit; and the Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act – bipartisan legislation to prohibit large online platforms from using deceptive user interfaces to trick consumers into handing over their personal data.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), urging the Commission to administer the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP) in a way that helps address the longstanding digital divides that block too many Americans from securing a reliable, affordable broadband connection. In their letter, the Senators encourage the FCC to design the program in a way that helps to establish a “durable, scalable model for future digital equity efforts,” and lays out specific steps to ensure that all Americans can access this essential 21st century tool.

“As communities across the country continue to grapple with connectivity challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen unprecedented reliance on telepresence services, including telework, online education, telehealth, and remote support services,” wrote the Senators. “Unfortunately, the already-existing digital divide has been further exacerbated by these disruptions, which have highlighted and furthered the broadband gap that too many American households still face. While Congress continues to work with the FCC and other Federal agencies on expanding broadband access to unserved and underserved areas through a number of programs, affordability remains a significant barrier to connectivity for far too many Americans. According to Pew Research, approximately half of non-broadband users’ given reason for lack of connectivity is prohibitive cost, and 44 percent of households earning $30,000 or less do not have broadband. With the establishment of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, and with proper, forward-looking implementation, we believe we can make a substantial difference in supporting broadband affordability for the most vulnerable Americans.

“First, while the EBBP will sunset after the end of the coronavirus pandemic, it presents a unique opportunity for the FCC to look at how to address the broadband affordability issue long-term and starting to think now about the longevity of cost support well beyond this program,” the Senators continued. “As we know, the ultimate end to the pandemic will not signify the end to the digital divide, and the efforts that we put forth now toward encouraging digital equity must represent a durable, scalable model for future digital equity efforts.

The letter from Senators Warner, King, and Hassan goes on to lay out additional steps that the FCC should take in order to maximize the reach and impact of the EBBP both during this crisis and in the long-term. Specifically, the Senators highlight the value of collaborating, with state and community partners, urge the commission to set the eligibility criteria as broadly as reasonably possible, and emphasize the importance of supporting newer or smaller broadband services, many of which operate in historically underserved areas.

“Finally, it is important to make access to the EBBP benefits streamlined and accessible - both for providers and households, including subscribers of newer broadband service. The program will be most successful when eligible households are readily able to participate without overly cumbersome or restrictive requirements,” added the Senators.

“Closing the digital divide is of critical importance to our economic future and we look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure every American has access to affordable high-speed broadband, regardless of one’s household income or the zip code of where one lives,” the Senators concluded. “We appreciate your history of leadership on connectivity issues and working to close the digital divide. We believe that the EBBP presents an exciting opportunity to address the digital divide and affordability barriers to broadband access. With proper implementation and collaboration with state and local partners, it can allow all members of our communities to better participate in a 21st century society and economy, both during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.”

The full letter can be downloaded HERE or read below

+++

The Honorable Jessica Rosenworcel

Acting Chairwoman

Federal Communications Commission

45 L Street, NE

Washington, DC 20554

 

Dear Chairwoman Rosenworcel,

We write to you today regarding the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) invitation for public comment on how to administer the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP). As you know, the EBBP was created by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (P.L. 116-260) and offers eligible households discounts on broadband service during an emergency period related to the coronavirus pandemic. We appreciate the opportunity to share our input and perspective on this vital issue to ensure that the program is utilized to its fullest potential.

As communities across the country continue to grapple with connectivity challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen unprecedented reliance on telepresence services, including telework, online education, telehealth, and remote support services. Unfortunately, the already-existing digital divide has been further exacerbated by these disruptions, which have highlighted and furthered the broadband gap that too many American households still face. While Congress continues to work with the FCC and other Federal agencies on expanding broadband access to unserved and underserved areas through a number of programs, affordability remains a significant barrier to connectivity for far too many Americans. According to Pew Research, approximately half of non-broadband users’ given reason for lack of connectivity is prohibitive cost, and 44 percent of households earning $30,000 or less do not have broadband.[1] With the establishment of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, and with proper, forward-looking implementation, we believe we can make a substantial difference in supporting broadband affordability for the most vulnerable Americans.

First, while the EBBP will sunset after the end of the coronavirus pandemic, it presents a unique opportunity for the FCC to look at how to address the broadband affordability issue long-term and starting to think now about the longevity of cost support well beyond this program. As we know, the ultimate end to the pandemic will not signify the end to the digital divide, and the efforts that we put forth now toward encouraging digital equity must represent a durable, scalable model for future digital equity efforts.

Second, it is important to collaborate closely with state/local partners and anchor institutions—first to provide education and outreach about the programs’ availability and incentivize participation within underserved communities, but also to ensure that the FCC can work in tandem with existing digital inclusion efforts on the state level. Community awareness of the program’s benefits and encouraging community partnerships are key to successful implementation, and will pair well with existing state-based programs promoting digital inclusion through adult education, equipment lending, and telehealth initiatives. 

Third, the intention of Congress in providing the EBBP benefits was to reduce consumer broadband costs to address the affordability barriers to wider broadband access. We all share the goal of ensuring that families facing difficult financial circumstances during the pandemic are not forced to choose between housing, food, and other necessities and internet service. In order to accomplish that objective, the FCC should set eligibility criteria as broadly as reasonably possible, including looking at how to incorporate newer providers and newer customers, while taking every appropriate measure to ensure that the full value of the program reaches the families that it is intended to benefit. It is incumbent on the Commission to ensure that participating providers are honestly and in good faith passing the full value of the benefit on to their customers.

Finally, it is important to make access to the EBBP benefits streamlined and accessible - both for providers and households, including subscribers of newer broadband service. The program will be most successful when eligible households are readily able to participate without overly cumbersome or restrictive requirements. Similarly, it is vital to include small, local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in cost-sharing efforts. Many states across the country rely heavily on the efforts of regional ISPs for broadband expansion, especially to rural, historically unserved areas, and ensuring that program entry and reporting is accessible to all providers will contribute greatly to the success of the EBBP in areas with the most need.

Closing the digital divide is of critical importance to our economic future and we look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure every American has access to affordable high-speed broadband, regardless of one’s household income or the zip code of where one lives. We appreciate your history of leadership on connectivity issues and working to close the digital divide. We believe that the EBBP presents an exciting opportunity to address the digital divide and affordability barriers to broadband access. With proper implementation and collaboration with state and local partners, it can allow all members of our communities to better participate in a 21st century society and economy, both during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond. Thank you for your attention to these matters.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a statement following a meeting at the White House with President Biden and bipartisan members of the House and Senate to discuss securing U.S. supply chains for critical and essential goods:

“I applaud the Biden Administration for engaging lawmakers on a bipartisan basis on supply chain security, particularly as it relates to semiconductors. To counter China’s efforts to expand its influence and economic power, we have to make investments here at home, which is why I introduced bipartisan legislation, the CHIPS for America Act, to boost U.S. semiconductor manufacturing and research and create jobs.

“Maintaining U.S. competitiveness in semiconductor manufacturing is a national security issue as well as an economic one, because semiconductors are the critical driver of innovation and defense computing capabilities. Today, these chips power an unimaginable range of products big and small, expensive and cheap, high-tech and low-tech. Today’s Executive Order is a good first start but much more work remains to be done – and quickly – including fully funding a number of enacted bills related to promoting supply chain security, resiliency and greater American competitiveness in key foundation technologies like semiconductors and wireless infrastructure. I was encouraged that in today’s meeting, there was a bipartisan consensus that supply chain security must remain a priority, and I look forward to working with President Biden and my colleagues in the Senate on this issue.”

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) today joined U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband, Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), to reintroduce the Network Security Trade Act, legislation to ensure U.S. communications infrastructure security is a clear negotiating objective of our country’s trade policy.

“Promoting the security and integrity of global digital infrastructure should be among the most paramount digital trade objectives the U.S. pursues,” said Warner. “It is long past time to make this a key negotiating objective in order to promote a more long-term, multilateral strategy to safeguard the global telecommunications market from providers like Huawei that could pose a serious risk to digital infrastructure across the globe.”

“There is a lot of promise with new and advanced technologies like 5G, but the United States can only deliver on those promises if we maintain the security of communications networks, both at home and abroad,” said Thune. “This legislation would ensure that the security of the equipment and technology that create the global communications infrastructure is front and center in our trade negotiations, because you can’t have optimal free trade if the global digital infrastructure is compromised.”

“When it comes to national security, one of our nation’s top priorities must be protecting our communication systems that we all depend on every day,” said Stabenow. “This bill helps leverage our trade negotiating powers to make sure our telecommunication networks like 5G are safe and secure.”

“The transition to 5G represents a major opportunity for American businesses, but it also poses serious challenges for America’s national security,” said Fischer. “Many other countries have plans to deploy equipment made by China’s untrustworthy Huawei. This bipartisan legislation makes clear that our concerns about Beijing are serious, and that future trade negotiations must account for our national security.”

The Network Security Trade Act would amend the 2015 Trade Promotion Authority, which is in effect until July 1, 2021, to include a negotiating objective related to the security of communications networks. Today, one of the largest manufacturers of 5G equipment and telecommunications infrastructure is Huawei Technologies, which is supported by the Chinese Communist Party. While the bill does not name specific state-owned companies, it would direct the executive branch to ensure that the equipment and technology that are used to create the global communications infrastructure are not compromised. It would achieve that goal by addressing barriers to the security of communications networks and supply chains and unfair trade practices of state-owned or state-controlled communications equipment suppliers in new trade agreements. Confronting these issues, which this legislation requires, is critical as the United States considers formal trade talks with the United Kingdom and other allies.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today participated in a virtual Senate Banking Committee hearing with Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, where he stressed the importance of including robust funding for broadband in any future COVID-19 relief package. According to current estimates, there are approximately 700,000 Virginians who still lack access to high-speed internet, which has become increasingly essential for telecommuting, distance learning,  telemedicine, and more amid the COVID-19 crisis. 

“I would argue, over the last eleven months, we've seen broadband is a necessity. I think it is absolutely COVID-19 related,” said Sen. Warner in questioning with Chairman Powell. “I hope that the current package can be changed to actually include a sizeable investment in broadband as good as our four bipartisan packages have been to date.”

He continued, “Experts like Tom Wheeler and Blair Levin have said somewhere in the $40 to $50 billion range, we can get about 97 percent coverage along with better affordability.”

In response, Chairman Powell said, “I would agree that it is a classic piece of infrastructure for the modern economy, for the service economy, for the technologically advanced economy and having it...as broadly available as possible could be a significant benefit economically.”

As a former governor and now in the Senate, Sen. Warner has long fought for increased access to broadband in the Commonwealth. In December, Sen. Warner negotiated and passed COVID-19 relief legislation that included $7 billion towards broadband, including $3.2 billion for an Emergency Broadband Benefit to help low-income families maintain their internet connections, $285 million to support broadband access in minority communities, and $300 million in broadband grants modeled on bipartisan provisions Sen. Warner drafted with his colleagues. Sen. Warner has also introduced  comprehensive broadband infrastructure legislation to expand access to affordable high-speed internet, and has also introduced bipartisan legislation with Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott (R-SC) to establish a $10 billion Broadband Development Fund to prioritize funding for areas that currently lack service, support the deployment of advanced technologies in areas where there is the greatest need, and encourage projects that can quickly provide internet service.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), about 21 million Americans do not have access to 25/3 mbps internet, which is the FCC’s standard for high speed broadband. Of that 21 million, 16 million live in rural areas, while 5 million live in urban areas. 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today requested information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) following a cyber incident in which hackers remotely breached a Florida water treatment plant and sought to dramatically alter water chemical levels in a move that could have poisoned thousands of residents.  

“The security and integrity of our critical infrastructure is of utmost importance. The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) states that 80% of the United States receives potable water from approximately 153,000 public drinking water systems, and any type of attack, including a cyber attack, could result in ‘illnesses or casualties and/or a denial of service that would also impact public health and economic vitality,’” wrote Sen. Warner in a letter to the Assistant Director of the FBI and the Acting Assistant Administrator at the EPA. “This incident has implications beyond the 15,000-person town of Oldsmar. While the Oldsmar water treatment facility incident was detected with sufficient time to mitigate serious risks to the citizens of Oldsmar, and appears to have been identified as the result of a diligent employee monitoring this facility’s operations, future compromises of this nature may not be detected in time.”

He continued, “The Federal Government must ensure we are taking all precautions to keep drinking water safe for Americans. Designated as one of the 16 infrastructure sectors critical to national security under the Presidential Policy Directive 21 (PPD-21), we must protect water facilities from cyber and other compromises.” 

On February 5, a water treatment facility in Oldsmar, Florida was accessed remotely by hackers, who increased sodium hydroxide levels from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million, a dangerous amount that could have sickened town residents, had the attack gone unnoticed by a plant employee.

In his letter, Sen. Warner requested a progress update on the FBI’s investigation into this incident. He also asked for an EPA review into whether the Oldsmar water treatment facility was compliant with the most recent Water and Wastewater Sector-Specific Plan, and whether that plan needs to be updated to confront similar risks. Additionally, Sen. Warner inquired about any plans to share timely threat information related to this incident with water and wastewater facilities, and other critical infrastructure providers.

Sen. Warner, a former technology executive, is the co-founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, he has fought for increased cybersecurity measures commensurate with Americans’ increased reliance on remote work. Among other measures, Sen. Warner has advocated for increased funding to modernize federal information technology, urged internet networking device vendors to ensure the security of their products, and pressed cybersecurity officials to bolster defenses against cybersecurity attacks. 

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

 

Dear Mr. Gorham and Ms. Fox,

I am writing to request information about reports of a serious security compromise of a water treatment plant in Oldsmar, Florida on February 5, 2021.  The security and integrity of our critical infrastructure is of utmost importance.  The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) states that 80% of the United States receives potable water from approximately 153,000 public drinking water systems, and any type of attack, including a cyber attack, could result in “illnesses or casualties and/or a denial of service that would also impact public health and economic vitality.”[i]  Additionally, other critical infrastructure sectors such as healthcare, emergency services, energy, food and agriculture, and transportation systems depend on the cyber resilience of water facilities.[ii]

According to information released by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the Oldsmar water treatment facility was accessed remotely by an unauthorized entity, who increased the amount of sodium hydroxide in the potable water supply to a dangerous level.[iii]  Given the consequences of a successful compromise of this kind, and the broader security weaknesses this unsuccessful attempt may illustrate within critical infrastructure sectors reliant on similar industrial control systems, I would request first, to be informed of the progress of the FBI’s investigation of the incident; second, a review by the Environmental Protection Agency into whether the Oldsmar water treatment facility was compliant with the most recent Water and Wastewater Sector-Specific Plan, and whether that plan, most recently updated in 2015, needs to be updated to confront similar risks; and third, to confirm the Federal Government is sharing timely threat information related to this incident with water and wastewater facilities, and other critical infrastructure providers across the United States.

This incident has implications beyond the 15,000-person town of Oldsmar.  While the Oldsmar water treatment facility incident was detected with sufficient time to mitigate serious risks to the citizens of Oldsmar, and appears to have been identified as the result of a diligent employee monitoring this facility’s operations, future compromises of this nature may not be detected in time.  The Federal Government must ensure we are taking all precautions to keep drinking water safe for Americans.  Designated as one of the 16 infrastructure sectors critical to national security under the Presidential Policy Directive 21 (PPD-21), we must protect water facilities from cyber and other compromises.  

Please coordinate with my office to provide updates on the investigation of the incident, as well as efforts underway to avoid future compromises on water facilities in the United States.

###

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., in introducing legislation that would establish one set of technology and security capabilities for state unemployment offices.

“At a moment like this, the financial wellbeing of so many families across Virginia and throughout the nation hinges on the ability of state unemployment agencies to process benefits with efficiency and precision,” Warner, a former technology entrepreneur, said. “This legislation will harness the power of technology to bring unemployment agencies into the 21st century, improving user experience and establishing strong cybersecurity measures.” 

“While enhanced jobless benefits have enabled millions and millions of families to pay the rent and buy groceries, many states have been unable to get benefits out the door in a timely manner. I have heard story after story from Oregonians who have spent months trying to get their jobless benefits. That’s completely unacceptable when families are depending on these benefits to keep a roof over their heads,” Wyden said. “My bill requires a complete overhaul of unemployment insurance technology, and paves the way for one website to apply for jobless benefits, not 53. The bill also requires minimum standards for accessibility and equity. Black and Hispanic workers have been far less likely to access benefits, even though they have been far more likely to lose their jobs during this crisis because they work in the hardest-hit industries. Congress must not allow another recession to come and go without reforming our unemployment insurance system, and that starts with an overhaul of technology.”

“This bill would provide the tools and support Ohio needs to update its program and make it easier for Ohioans to access the unemployment benefits they are entitled to,” Brown said. “It’s been far too long since the program got the updates it needs.”

“Nevada still has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, with many of its workers still out of work in hard-hit industries like hospitality, and thousands of Nevadans continue to rely on jobless benefits to help support their families,” Cortez Masto said. “I am proud to support a policy that provides resources essential to delivering a more efficient and accessible unemployment system that will ensure Nevadans, and Americans across the country, can access the help they need when they need it.” 

The Unemployment Insurance Technology Modernization Act

  • Requires the Department of Labor to work with the technology experts to develop, operate and maintain a modular set of technology capabilities to modernize unemployment compensation technology. 
    • States will be able to use all of the capabilities or choose to use only those capabilities that meet their needs.
    • The updated technology will help states ensure timely and accurate delivery of payments and better identify fraudulent claims.
  • Prioritizes user experience, including by requiring consultation and testing with claimants, employers, State workforce agency staff and other users.
  • Requires a study to evaluate unemployment insurance technology needs, with an emphasis on program accessibility and equity.
  • Establishes a new Department of Labor Digital Services Team to expand the Department’s ability to assist states with technological issues.
  • Ensures the use of best practices in cybersecurity, procurement and transparency during and after the development of the technology capabilities.
  • Includes the accessibility requirements for online claim-filing systems from Senator Wyden’s Unemployment Insurance Technology and Accessibility Act.
  • Includes provisions from Senator Wyden’s Algorithmic Accountability Act to ensure that the new technology capabilities do not rely on automated decision systems that may produce biased results without impact assessments and public input.

Bill text is available here

Statements of Support

Andrew Stettner, Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation: “The COVID19 pandemic has exposed serious deficiencies in the technology used to process unemployment insurance (UI) claims, deficiencies that are causing unacceptable delays in payments. The good news is, we can fix these UI tech challenges. I commend Senator Wyden for developing a truly national solution that can be utilized by multiple states, embedded with sound principles of user-centered design, civil rights, and protections against algorithmic bias.”

Arnab Datta, Employ America, Senior Legislative Counsel: “The COVID crisis has underscored the fact that our macroeconomic policy response can only be as effective as the infrastructure administering it. The Unemployment Insurance Technology Modernization Act will importantly invest in federal technology systems and staff, ensuring equity across state lines. Investing in a federal, modern UI system will ensure timely benefit payments and application processing will provide large and tangible benefits for workers, employers, and the macroeconomy. Senator Wyden’s emphasis on accessibility and equity and commitment to centering jobless workers’ experiences and needs is commendable, and we’re proud he’s tackling these issues head-on. This proposal is a positive step forward towards long-overdue infrastructure developments for unemployment insurance. We hope Congress will strongly consider this bill.”

Judy Conti, Government Affairs Director, the National Employment Law Project: “NELP commends the senators for introducing this bill that is well designed to help make crucial improvements to unemployment insurance programs across the country. Unemployed workers across the country have paid a terrible price during this pandemic and recession for the shameful neglect of UI infrastructure over the past few decades. It would be nothing short of immoral for us to fail to learn our lesson and make necessary corrections before the next crisis hits. We thank Senator Wyden for his foresight and leadership and look forward to working with him to make sure this bill is signed into law.”

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) announced the Safeguarding Against Fraud, Exploitation, Threats, Extremism and Consumer Harms (SAFE TECH) Act to reform Section 230 and allow social media companies to be held accountable for enabling cyber-stalking, targeted harassment, and discrimination on their platforms.  

“When Section 230 was enacted in 1996, the Internet looked very different than it does today. A law meant to encourage service providers to develop tools and policies to support effective moderation has instead conferred sweeping immunity on online providers even when they do nothing to address foreseeable, obvious and repeated misuse of their products and services to cause harm,” said Sen. Warner, a former technology entrepreneur and the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. “Section 230 has provided a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card to the largest platform companies even as their sites are used by scam artists, harassers and violent extremists to cause damage and injury. This bill doesn’t interfere with free speech – it’s about allowing these platforms to finally be held accountable for harmful, often criminal behavior enabled by their platforms to which they have turned a blind eye for too long.” 

“Section 230 was passed in 1996 to incentivize then-nascent internet companies to voluntarily police illegal and harmful content posted by their users. Now, twenty-five years later, the law allows some of the biggest companies in the world turn a blind eye while their platforms are used to violate civil and human rights, stalk and harass people, and defraud consumers—all without accountability,” Sen. Hirono said. “The SAFE TECH Act brings Section 230 into the modern age by creating targeted exceptions to the law’s broad immunity. Internet platforms must either address the serious harms they impose on society or face potential civil liability.”

“We need to be asking more from big tech companies, not less. How they operate has a real-life effect on the safety and civil rights of Americans and people around the world, as well as our democracy. Holding these platforms accountable for ads and content that can lead to real-world harm is critical, and this legislation will do just that,” said Sen. Klobuchar. 

The SAFE TECH Act would make clear that Section 230:

·       Doesn’t apply to ads or other paid content – ensuring that platforms cannot continue to profit as their services are used to target vulnerable consumers with ads enabling frauds and scams;

·       Doesn’t bar injunctive relief – allowing victims to seek court orders where misuse of a provider’s services is likely to cause irreparable harm; 

·       Doesn’t impair enforcement of civil rights laws – maintaining the vital and hard-fought protections from discrimination even when activities or services are mediated by internet platforms; 

·       Doesn’t interfere with laws that address stalking/cyber-stalking or harassment and intimidation on the basis of protected classes – ensuring that victims of abuse and targeted harassment can hold platforms accountable when they directly enable harmful activity;

·       Doesn’t bar wrongful death actions – allowing the family of a decedent to bring suit against platforms where they may have directly contributed to a loss of life;

·       Doesn’t bar suits under the Alien Tort Claims Act – potentially allowing victims of platform-enabled human rights violations abroad (like the survivors of the Rohingya genocide) to seek redress in U.S. courts against U.S.-based platforms.

These changes to Section 230 do not guarantee that platforms will be held liable in all, or even most, cases. Proposed changes do not subject platforms to strict liability; and the current legal standards for plaintiffs still present steep obstacles. Rather, these reforms ensure that victims have an opportunity to raise claims without Section 230 serving as a categorical bar to their efforts to seek legal redress for harms they suffer – even when directly enabled by a platform’s actions or design. 

Bill text is available here. A three-page summary is available here. Frequently asked questions about the bill are available here. A redline of Section 230 is available here.

“Social media platforms and the tech companies that run them must protect their users from the growing and dangerous combination of misinformation and discrimination. As we have repeatedly seen, these platforms are being used to violate the civil rights of Black users and other users of color by serving as virtually-unchecked homes for hateful content and in areas such as housing and employment discrimination through the targeting and limiting of who can see certain advertisements. Section 230 must be strengthened to ensure that these online communities are not safe harbors for the violations of civil rights laws. LDF supports Senator Warner and Senator Hirono’s bill as it addresses these critical concerns,” said Lisa Cylar Barrett, Director of Policy, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF)

“Tech companies must be held accountable for their roles in facilitating genocide, extremist violence and egregious civil rights abuses. We applaud Senators Hirono and Warner for their leadership in introducing a robust bill that focuses on supporting targets of civil and human rights abuses on social media while also addressing cyber-harassment and other crimes stemming from the spread of hate and disinformation. The sweeping legal protections enjoyed by tech platforms cannot continue,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of ADL (Anti-Defamation League).

“Platforms should not profit from targeting employment ads toward White users, or from targeting voter suppression ads toward Black users. Senator Warner and Senator Hirono’s comprehensive bill makes it clear that Section 230 does not give platforms a free pass to violate civil rights laws, while also preserving the power of platforms to remove harmful disinformation,” said Spencer Overton, President, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

“I applaud the SAFE TECH Act introduced by Sens. Warner and Hirono which provides useful modifications to section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act to limit the potential negative impacts of commercial advertising interests while continuing to protect anti-harassment and civil and human rights interests of those who may be wrongfully harmed through wrongful online activity,”

Ramesh Srinivasan, Professor at the UCLA Department of Information Studies and Director of UC Digital Cultures Lab, said.

“Congress enacted 47 USC 230 in the mid-1990s to support online innovation and free speech but the way in which courts have very generously read Section 230 have meant there is no legal mechanism that has done more to insulate intermediaries from legal accountability for distributing, amplifying, and carefully delivering unlawful content and facilitating dangerous antisocial connections. Racist, misogynist, and violent antidemocratic forces coalesce online because intermediaries rarely have to account for their social impacts. Senator Warner and Senator Hirono’s proposed changes create a new and necessary incentive for such companies to be far more mindful of the social impacts of their services in areas of law that are of vital importance to the health of the networked information environment. It does this while not abandoning the protection for intermediaries' distribution of otherwise lawful content,” said Olivier Sylvain, Professor at Fordham Law School and Director of the McGannon Center for Communications Research.

“We applaud Senator Warner and Senator Hirono’s important effort to reform Section 230 and thus bring greater accountability to the tech sector. Warner’s proposed reforms are crucial to protecting civil rights and making the web safer for those who have been negatively impacted by much that happens there, both online and off.  We thank Senator Warner and Senator Hirono for tackling this critically important issue,” Wendy Via, Cofounder, Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, said.

“The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative welcomes this effort to protect civil rights in the digital age and to hold online intermediaries accountable for their role in the silencing and exploitation of vulnerable communities. This bill offers urgently needed provisions to limit and correct the overzealous interpretation of Section 230 that has granted a multibillion dollar industry immunity and impunity for profiting from irreparable injury,” said Mary Anne Franks, President, Cyber Civil Rights Initiative and Danielle K. Citron, Vice President, Cyber Civil Rights Initiative.

“For too long, companies like Facebook and YouTube have undermined the rights and safety of Muslims and communities of color in the U.S. and around the world. We have urged them to take responsibility for the targeted hate and violence, including genocide, facilitated by their platforms but these companies have refused to act,” said Madihha Ahussain, Muslim Advocates Special Counsel for Anti-Muslim Bigotry. “We appreciate Senators Warner and Hirono for introducing the SAFE TECH Act, which includes essential adjustments to Section 230 and will finally hold these companies accountable for violating people’s rights.”

“The SAFE TECH Act is an important step forward for platform accountability and for the protection of privacy online. Providing an opportunity for victims of harassment, privacy invasions, and other violations to remove unlawful content is critical to stopping its spread and limiting harm,” said Caitriona Fitzgerald, Interim Associate Director and Policy Director, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

“The SAFE TECH Act is the Section 230 reform America needs now. Over-expansive readings of Section 230 have encouraged reckless and negligent shirking by platforms of basic duties toward their users. Few if any of the drafters of Section 230 could have imagined that it would be opportunistically seized on to deregulate online arms sales, protect sellers of defective merchandise, permit genocidaires to organize online with impunity, or allow dating sites to ignore campaigns of harassment and worse against their users. The SAFE TECH Act reins in the cyberlibertarian ethos of Section 230 imperialism, permitting courts to carefully weigh and assess evidence in cases where impunity is now preemptively assumed,” Frank Pasquale, Author of The Black Box Society and Professor at Brooklyn Law School, said.

“For far too long online platforms have placed profit over accountability and decency, and allowed misinformation, algorithmic discrimination, and online hate to be weaponized. When the Communications Decency Act was passed in 1996, no one imagined it would be used to shield the most valuable companies in the world from basic civil rights compliance,” said David Brody, Counsel and Senior Fellow for Privacy and Technology, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “This bill would make irresponsible big tech companies accountable for the digital pollution they knowingly and willfully produce, while continuing to protect free speech online. Black Americans and other communities of color are frequent targets of online hate, threats and discrimination, and many of these online behaviors would not be tolerated if they occurred in a brick-and-mortar business. It is time that big tech stop treating our communities of color like second-class citizens, and give them the protection they deserve.”

“It is unacceptable that Big Tech enjoys near total legal immunity from the harm that their platforms expose to children and families. Tech companies should not be able to hide behind Section 230 to avoid abiding by civil rights laws, court injunctions, and other protections for families and the most vulnerable in society. Reforms proposed by Sens. Warner and Hirono begin to change that. It is time to hold these companies accountable for the harms their platforms have unleashed on society,” said James P. Steyer, CEO and Founder, Common Sense.

“The deadly insurrection at the Capitol made clear that lawmakers must take immediate action to ensure multi-billion-dollar social media companies, whose business models incentivize the unchecked spread of hate-fueled misinformation and violent clickbait conspiracies, can no longer abuse Section 230’s broad protections to evade civil rights laws,” said Arisha Hatch, Color Of Change Vice President and Chief of Campaigns. “The SAFE TECH Act from Sen. Warner and Sen. Hirono is critical. The proposed reform would not only prevent power-hungry social media companies from leveraging Section 230 to turn a blind eye to civil rights violations on their platforms, but it would also incentivize them to take down dangerous paid and organic content — and establish better protections against real world harms like cyberstalking, which disproportionately impacts Black women. We strongly encourage members of Congress to support this legislation, which represents a significant step towards finally holding Big Tech accountable for their years-long role in enabling civil rights violations against Black communities.”

“After 2020 no-one is asking if online misinformation creates real-world harms - whether it's COVID and anti-vaxx misinformation, election-related lies or hate, it is now clear that action is needed to deal with unregulated digital platforms. Whereas users can freely spread hate and misinformation, platforms profit from traffic regardless of whether it is productive or damaging, the costs are borne by the public and society at large. This timely bill forensically delineates the harms and ensures perpetrators and enablers pay a price for the harms they create. In doing so, it reflects our desire for richer communication technologies, which enhance our right to speak and be heard, and that also respect our fundamental rights to life and safety,” said Imran Ahmed, CEO, Center for Countering Digital Hate. 

“Our lives are at stake because hate and white supremacy is flourishing online. On January 6th we saw the results of what continuous disinformation and hate online can do with the insurection and domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol, where five lives were lost,” said Brenda Victoria Castillo, President & CEO, National Hispanic Media Coalition. “It is time to hold online platforms accountable for their role in the radicalization and spread of extremist ideologies in our country. NHMC is proud to support Senator Warner's limited reform of Section 230, and applauds his efforts to safeguard our democracy and the Latinx community.”

“Senator Mark Warner is a leader in ensuring that technology  supports democracy even as it advances innovation. His and Senator Hirono’s new Section 230 reform bill now removes  obstacles to enforcement against discrimination, cyber-stalking, and targeted harassment in the online world. The events of Jan 6 demonstrated that what happens online isn’t just a game. Online conspiracy theories, discrimination, and harassment are a public danger. The Warner-Hirono bill would go a long way toward addressing these dangers, and incentivizing platforms to move past the current, ineffective whack-a-mole approach to these important online harms,” said Karen Kornbluh, Director of the Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative at the German Marshall Fund of the US and Former US Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), former telecommunications entrepreneur and incoming Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, today urged mobile carriers AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon and social media companies Apple, Facebook, Gab, Google, Parler, Signal, Telegram, and Twitter to immediately preserve content and associated meta-data connected to Wednesday’s insurrectionist attack on the United States Capitol. 

In all eleven letters to the companies’ CEOs, Sen. Warner emphasized how the rioters took the time to document the event “later posting them to their social media accounts or sharing them via text or mobile messaging platforms to celebrate their disdain for our democratic process.”

“The United States Capitol is now a crime scene,” wrote Sen. Warner in his letters to AT&TT-MobileVerizonAppleFacebookGabGoogleParlerSignalTelegram, and Twitter. “The FBI and other law enforcement agencies are currently investigating the events of that day, and trying to piece together what happened and the perpetrators involved. The prospect of litigation on behalf of the victims of the mayhem also is highly likely. Messaging data to and from your subscribers that may have participated in, or assisted, those engaged in this insurrection – and associated subscriber information – are critical evidence in helping to bring these rioters to justice.”

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), incoming Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement after Facebook announced an indefinite suspension of President Trump from the platform: 

“While I’m pleased to see social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube take long-belated steps to address the President’s sustained misuse of their platforms to sow discord and violence, these isolated actions are both too late and not nearly enough. Disinformation and extremism researchers have for years pointed to broader network-based exploitation of these platforms. As I have continually said, these platforms have served as core organizing infrastructure for violent, far right groups and militia movements for several years now – helping them to recruit, organize, coordinate and in many cases (particularly with respect to YouTube) generate profits from their violent, extremist content.” 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Co-Chair of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, issued the statement below after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), and the National Security Agency (NSA) released a joint statement attributing the SolarWinds hack to Russia:

“It’s unfortunate that it has taken over three weeks after the revelation of an intrusion this significant for this Administration to finally issue a tentative attribution. I would hope that we will begin to see something more definitive, along with a more public pronouncement of U.S. policy towards indiscriminate supply chain infiltrations of this sort in the future. We need to make clear to Russia that any misuse of compromised networks to produce destructive or harmful effects is unacceptable and will prompt an appropriately strong response.”

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement after the Senate voted to override President Trump’s veto of the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):

“Today, I voted to override the President’s veto of the NDAA. This annual defense bill is critical to U.S. national security. Failure to pass it would jeopardize our country’s military readiness and national defense, cybersecurity, the well-being of our U.S. service members and their families, and more. The stakes are just too high to risk further delay.

The FY21 NDAA, which passed through the Senate earlier this month, contains a number of Warner-led provisions, including ones to combat illicit finance, prioritize U.S. innovation and technology development in 5G and semiconductors, protect military families, create a more diverse Pentagon workforce, enable greater SCIF flexibility, fund the procurement of a second Virginia-class submarine, and expand the list of service-connected presumptive conditions related to Agent Orange exposure. 

Earlier this week, the House voted 322-87 to override President Trump’s veto of the NDAA. Following today’s Senate vote, the bill will become law. 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded Senate passage of the bipartisan, bicameral spending bill to fund federal programs crucial to Virginia and keep the federal government open through 2021. The legislation also includes comprehensive measures to help Americans amid the ongoing economic and public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Following today’s Senate passage, the bill now heads to the President’s desk for signature. 

“For nine long months, folks waited for Congress to deliver critical relief as they watched COVID-19 further devastate their communities. Today, despite that unacceptable delay, relief is officially on its way,” said Warner. “I’m proud to have worked with a bipartisan group of colleagues to help get this legislation into shape and in the hands of House and Senate leaders. And while I know that this bill is not perfect, I’m glad to know that it will help American families weather this winter and get through the holidays.”

“While this relief should have been passed much earlier, I’m pleased to see families, small businesses, hospitals, schools, and more get the assistance they need,” Kaine said. “This legislation makes critical investments in unemployment assistance, food aid, housing assistance, and other areas to directly help those struggling amid the pandemic. Though we still have more work to do to help Americans get back on their feet, I’m relieved Congress was able to come to this bipartisan compromise and fund these priorities before the holidays.” 

The following list includes some of the priorities Warner and Kaine advocated:

  • Assistance for out of work Virginians: Extends federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, preventing hundreds of thousands of out-of-work Virginians from losing benefits over the holidays. The senators were cosponsors of the legislation that provided the model for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), through which more than 9 million Americans are currently receiving benefits. More recently, the Senators called on leadership to extend and add additional weeks of federal employment benefits to both PUA and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs. Additionally, it gives states the option to offer additional weekly financial relief for Americans with a mix of traditional (W-2) and independent employment income who are not able to claim their full benefit, modeled after Senator Warner’s legislation.
  • Stimulus checks: Includes a stimulus payment for low- and middle-income Americans; with $600 for individual filers and $1,200 for joint filers, with an additional $600 for each qualifying child in the household. Early in the crisis, Senator Kaine called for stimulus efforts to include direct payments to households. 
  • Vaccines: Includes over $19 billion for vaccines and therapeutics and an additional $8.75 billion to support vaccine distribution, particularly for states and localities, to slow the spread of the pandemic and take a step towards a future where COVID-19 is managed.
  • Emergency housing aid and protections: Creates a new $25 billion emergency rental assistance fund to prevent evictions during the pandemic, which will be delivered through state and local governments. Earlier this year, the Senators joined their colleagues in introducing legislation to provide emergency housing assistance for those facing potential evictions. The bill will also extend the CDC eviction moratorium to allow time for implementing the emergency housing aid.
  • Relief for hard-hit small businesses and nonprofits: Provides targeted relief for small businesses struggling with the effects of the pandemic. This includes a second round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans for small businesses and nonprofits that experienced a substantial revenue decline in 2020, as well as other funds for small business relief. The Small Business Administration (SBA) is directed to provide guidance to ensure priority access for underserved communities, such as minority-owned businesses. The bill also includes grants for small businesses and nonprofits in sectors likely to continue to see substantial drops in revenue in 2021, particularly in the live entertainment sector. This aid will ensure that Virginia’s small businesses are able to stay afloat during the pandemic, keep workers on payroll, and return to job creation as COVID-19 is controlled. The Senators have been strong supporters of providing relief to small businesses, cosponsoring the Heroes Small Business Lifeline Act, which included many of the provisions in the final bill, and the Save our Stages Act, on which the live entertainment grants are modeled. 
  • Targeted relief for underserved communities: Provides the largest single investment in our country's history for minority-owned and community-based lending institutions. Largely drawn from Senator Warner’s Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act, the provision provides $12 billion to community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and minority depository institutions (MDIs) to build capital and unlock affordable access to credit for underserved and minority neighborhoods, which have been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19.
  • Education Stabilization Fund: Provides $82 billion to provide emergency support to K-12 schools and higher education institutions. The legislation includes provisions of Kaine’s Coronavirus Relief Flexibility for Students and Institutions Act that allow colleges to use emergency stabilization funds to cover lost revenue and better target funds designated for colleges hardest hit by COVID-19 by requiring an application to demonstrate need. 
  • Broadband: Includes $7 billion towards broadband, including $3.2 billion for an Emergency Broadband Benefit to help low-income families maintain their internet connections, $285 million to support broadband access in minority communities, and $300 million in broadband grants modeled on provisions Senator Warner drafted with bipartisan Senators. Additionally, the bill includes an extension of the deadline to use Coronavirus Relief Funds so that state and localities interested in using the money for broadband expansion have more time, as Senator Warner called for.
  • Support for child care providers and families: Includes $10 billion in flexible funding for the Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to help support child care providers and ensure that working parents have access to child care during the pandemic. The bill also includes $250 million for Head Start programs.
  • Public health data modernization: Includes Senator Kaine’s Saving Lives Through Better Data Act, which will improve the nation’s public health data systems at CDC and through grants to state and local health departments to expand and modernize their systems, promoting more seamless communication, which can save lives when we’re faced with public health threats such as COVID-19. The omnibus authorizes $100 million for each of fiscal years 2021 through 2025.
  • Telehealth: Includes Senator Kaine and Senator Schatz’s Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes (ECHO) Act of 2019, which creates a grant program to evaluate, develop, and expand the use of distance health education models such as ECHO to increase access to specialty care in rural and medically underserved populations. The omnibus authorizes $10 million for each of fiscal years 2022 through 2026. The funding bill also permanently expands coverage of and payment for telehealth to treat mental health care, which is in line with Senator Warner’s CONNECT for Health Act, which Senator Kaine is a cosponsor.
  • Ends surprise billing: Includes a provision to end surprise billing, something Senators Warner and Kaine have long advocated for. 
  • U.S. Postal Service: Converts the CARES Act $10 billion loan into direct funding for USPS without requiring repayment. These funds will be used for operational costs and other expenses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Warner is a cosponsor of the Postal Service Emergency Assistance Act, which would provide USPS with significant direct funding. 
  • Veterans: Provides $104.4 billion in funding for the VA, an increase of $12.5 billion over FY20 levels. This funding increase provides $2.7 billion more than the previous fiscal year for health care delivered at VA facilities nationwide. The bill provides robust funding in several areas important for Virginia veterans, including $815 million for critical VA Medical and Prosthetic research, an increase of $1.18 billion over FY20 levels for electronic health record modernization, nearly $2 billon in support of programs to prevent veteran homelessness and $312.6 million for suicide prevention.
  • Infrastructure: Includes funding for key projects that were championed by Warner and Kaine to benefit Virginia’s infrastructure:
    • Includes a provision pushed for by Senators Warner and Kaine to allow for the construction of a new Long Bridge on the Potomac River, which will double the capacity of the rail crossing between Virginia and D.C. The current two-track Long Bridge is the only rail bridge connecting Virginia to Washington, D.C., and it is at 98 percent capacity during peak hours, which means it is one of the most significant rail chokepoints along the East Coast. The new Long Bridge program will double the capacity of the Potomac River rail crossing by adding a second two-track bridge adjacent to the existing bridge and including a new bike-pedestrian shared use path spanning the George Washington Memorial Parkway and the Potomac River. Senators Warner and Kaine introduced the Long Bridge Act of 2020 in August to allow for this construction.
    • Includes the full federal funding of $150 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to fund critical capital investment and safety projects. In addition, the bill provides $14 billion in emergency relief for public transit agencies to continue operations during the pandemic, ensuring access to transportation for frontline workers and civil servants.
    • Includes a one year extension of Community Development Block Grant funds to the City of Norfolk and other localities to build climate resilient infrastructure projects. Senators Kaine and Warner joined Senator John Hoeven in introducing S.4017 in June, which would also have provided an extension for the NDRC program.
    • Includes $87.5 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program—an increase of $2.5 million from FY 2020. The Chesapeake Bay Program coordinates Chesapeake Bay watershed restoration and protection efforts, and the majority of its funds are passed through to the states and local communities for on-the-ground restoration.
    • Authorizes federal funds to cover 65% of the costs associated with construction projects to address close to $1.5 billion of flood control needs in the City of Norfolk.
    • Grants a critical cost adjustment to allow work to continue on the Deep Creek Bridge inChesapeake to address traffic concerns.
    • Authorizes over $102.7 million in federal funds for construction of the North Landing BridgeReplacement project.
    • Provides up to $9 million for the Federal Aviation Administration to continue its remote tower system pilot program at smaller airports, including the Remote Air Traffic Control Tower at Leesburg Executive Airport.
  • Great American Outdoors Act: With Senator Warner’s Great American Outdoors Act now law, the FY21 omnibus affirms funding for several deferred maintenance projects in Virginia:
    • George Washington Memorial Parkway – A $207 million project to restore 7.6 miles of northern section of the GW Parkway and implement critical safety measures. The Senators have long advocated for federal funding for this project for several years as seen here and here.
    • Shenandoah National Park – A $27 million project to pave and restore nearly 50 miles of Skyline Drive and various overlooks. Shenandoah will also receive nearly $3.5 million to remove unnecessary buildings and restore greenspace within the park.
    • Colonial National Historical Park – A $16.5 million project to restore nearly 5 miles of shoreline along the York River.
  • FBI Headquarters: Provides no funding for a new FBI headquarters and includes language that encourages General Services Administration (GSA) to provide a new prospectus, particularly after the Trump Administration abruptly abandoned plans to develop a new campus headquarters for the FBI. Earlier this year, Senators Warner and Kaine opposed an attempt in an earlier Republican COVID-19 relief package that would have provided $1.75 billion for construction of a new FBI HQ in its current downtown D.C. location.  
  • Miners’ Benefits: Extends the funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund until the end of 2021 by extending the tax on mining companies that helps fund the program. Both Kaine and Warner introduced the Black Lung Benefits Disability Trust Fund Solvency Act calling on Congress to extend the excise tax through the end of 2030.
  • Shipbuilding & MILCON funding: Provides $23.27 billion for shipbuilding for 10 battle force ships including full funding for a second Virginia-class submarine, which Senators Warner and Kaine personally advocated for. The bill also appropriates $237 million for 6 MILCON projects in Virginia, including:
    • Humphreys Engineer Center, Training Support Facility (Army) - $51m
    • Norfolk, E-2D Training Facility (Navy) - $30.4m
    • Norfolk, Corrosion Control and Paint Facility (Navy) - $17.671m
    • Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Access Control Point Main Gate with Land Acquisition (Air Force) - $19.5m
    • Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Story, Operations Facility and Command Center (Def-Wide) - $54.5m
    • JEB Little Creek-Story, NSWG Facilities (Def-Wide) - $58m
  • Federal contractors: Senators Warner and Kaine also pushed to extend a provision from CARES (3610), which allows contractual adjustments for a paid leave program, allowing contractors to keep employees on the payroll if federal facilities close due to the pandemic – an important provision for our defense industrial base and cleared national security workforce. 
  • Foster care and homeless youth: Includes key provisions of Senator Kaine’s bill with Senator Murray and Senator Portman, the Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act, to remove barriers to financial aid for students experiencing homelessness or students formerly in foster care by easing the application and determination for becoming eligible for aid. The bill also includes language allowing foster youth to remain in the system until October 1, 2021, regardless of their age—a move that Senators Warner and Kaine called for in a recent letter to the administration.
  • Funds Childhood Disease ResearchProvides $12.6 million for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Pediatric Research Program to conduct pediatric cancer and disease research. The Senators worked to enact the legislation authorizing this program, named for 10-year-old Gabriella Miller of Loudoun County, who passed away from cancer in October of 2013.
  • Supporting working students and families: Includes key provisions of Senator Kaine’s bill with Senator Baldwin, the Working Students Actto reduce the “work penalty” that many students who work while attending school face. Currently, students who work while attending school often are eligible for less financial aid due to their work income. The appropriations bill enacts a 35% increase for working students and 20% increase for families to the income protection allowance (IPA), shielding more of their income from reducing their financial aid.
  • Student Loan Repayment: Extends an important change to existing tax policy allowing employers to use pre-tax dollars to help pay down employees’ student debt until 2025 – a provision modeled after Senator Warner’s bipartisan Employer Participation in Repayment Act to help more than 44 million Americans with student loan debt.
  • Ashanti Alert: Includes $1 million in federal funding to help with the nationwide implementation of the Ashanti Alert system. Following the abduction of 19-year old Ashanti Billie, who did not meet the criteria for an Amber or Silver Alert, Senator Warner secured unanimous passage of this national alert system through the Senate on December 6, 2018, and has been a leader in the fight to implement the Ashanti Alert nationwide ever since.
  • Nutrition: Provides $13 billion in nutrition assistance, including a 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits through June 30, 2021 for all SNAP participants. Excludes unemployment compensation from being counted as income for the purposes of calculating SNAP benefits and eligibility. Provides $400 million for food banks through The Emergency Food Assistance Program.
  • Farmers: Provides $13 billion for direct payments, purchases, and loans to producers who have suffered losses due to the pandemic, including funds to support the food supply chain through food purchases, donations to food banks, and support for local food systems. Additionally, it includes $5 billion for supplemental payments to row crop producers; $3 billion for supplemental payments to cattle producers and contract growers of livestock and poultry, dairy farmers, and producers who were forced to euthanize livestock or poultry; $225 million for producers of specialty crops; and $1.5 billion to purchase food for distribution to those in need.
  • Timber Harvesting/Hauling: Provides up to $200 million to support timber harvesting and timber hauling businesses impacted by COVID-19. 
  • Dairy: Provides up to $400 million for a Dairy Product Donation Program, modeled after the 2018 Farm Bill pilot program to facilitate the donation of dairy products and minimize food waste. 
  • Textiles: Allows USDA to make payments to users of upland cotton and extra-long staple cotton.
  • Fisheries: Provides $300 million in assistance to help fisheries mitigate COVID-19 related impacts. 
  • Water Utility Bill Assistance: Provides $638 million for a new program to help low-income families cover the costs of drinking water and wastewater utility bills by making funds available to states and Tribes. These localities will provide dollars to owners or operators of public water systems or treatment works to reduce arrearages and rates for low-income households.
  • Appalachian Regional Commission: Includes a record $180 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission, an increase of $5 million from FY20.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, urging the Trump Administration to refrain from including sweeping liability protection language modeled on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 in a trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom.

“We are optimistic that a new trade agreement with the United Kingdom will ensure fair, balanced, and reciprocal trade. But we want to note that we have concerns with the inclusion of safe harbor language modeled on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996,” wrote the Senators. “Including a safe harbor clause in any future trade agreements will further allocate more power to companies at the expense of individuals.”

They continued, Congress can and should debate about Section 230 and how it has enabled platforms to turn a blind eye as their platforms are used to facilitate discrimination, cyber-stalking, terrorism, online frauds, and more. We urge USTR to refrain from including this provision in this and future free trade agreements until that debate has concluded.” 

A copy of the letter is available here and text can be found below.

 

Dear Ambassador Lighthizer:

We support strengthening trade relations between the United States and the United Kingdom through a potential free trade agreement. That relationship would not be improved, however, by a trade agreement that includes “safe harbor” language similar to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

As an initial matter, Congress is not requesting, let alone requiring, the Administration to include this type of liability protection in our trade agreements. Trade promotion authority, which establishes the United States’ negotiating objectives for trade agreements, calls for “recogniz[ing] the significance of the internet as a trading platform in international commerce” – not for providing blanket immunity to bad actors because the wrongful conduct took place on the internet. Moreover, there is no reason to believe that such “safe harbor” language actually facilitates U.S. trade policy interests, particularly with respect to a country like the United Kingdom that has a strong rule of law tradition. Instead, the blanket immunity provided by measures like Section 230 allows platforms to escape liability for directly enabling heinous conduct such as online frauds, cyber-stalking, terrorism, and child abuse. Not surprisingly, neither the U.S. Congress nor the UK Parliament are seeking to export this type of immunity. Instead, they are undertaking vigorous debates regarding the proper oversight, transparency, and effective management of digital communications technologies. 

Domestically, there is bipartisan consensus around the need to address illegal behavior online. Many Members of Congress, as well as the Department of Justice, have offered bills to reform Section 230. The United Kingdom unveiled its long-awaited “Online Harms” regulation, which would create a new regulatory framework to address unlawful and harmful online content. In parallel, the United Kingdom also passed a law last year that, once fully implemented, will establish a code of practice to protect children from exposure to harmful online content.

Congress passed Section 230 as part of wider legislation in 1996. The internet has changed dramatically since then and, accordingly, Section 230 has not aged well. As legislators proceed to review and examine the issues surrounding internet platform liability, it is unnecessary—and inappropriate—to tie their hands by making Section 230-style immunity an international obligation of our respective countries. 

We remain excited by the opportunities presented by a new trade agreement with the United Kingdom. We want our Special Relationship to be as strong economically as it is politically. But inclusion of a “safe harbor” clause in either negotiations or a final agreement is frankly unhelpful to achieving that goal. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely, 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced its decision to conduct a study on the privacy and wider business practices of major technology platforms – a move that Sen. Warner has long advocated:

“As I have impressed upon Chairman Simons in the past, an effort by the FTC to systematically study the data collection and business practices of the largest technology platforms is long overdue. Policymakers and regulators – not to mention consumers – are totally in the dark about how their data is being collected and monetized; about the metrics used to measure their attention, engagement, and value to the platform; and about the ways in which these platforms design their products to maximize data collection, ad revenue, and user engagement. I applaud Chairman Simons and the Commission for this important step in bringing sunlight to what has far too long been an opaque market, vulnerable to abuse, digital ad fraud, and consumer harm.” 

Sen. Warner, a former technology entrepreneur, is one of the leading voices in Congress on technology issues. He has authored and introduced a series of bipartisan bills designed to protect consumers and reduce the power of giant social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google. One of these bills, the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight and Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act, would require data-harvesting companies to tell consumers and financial regulators exactly what data they are collecting from consumers and provide granular details about how it is being leveraged by the platform for profit as part of their quarterly financial disclosures. The bipartisan Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act would prohibit large online platforms from using deceptive user interfaces to trick consumers into handing over their personal data or consenting to unfair terms of service. Additionally, the Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act would encourage market-based competition to dominant social media platforms by requiring the largest companies to make user data portable – and their services interoperable – with other platforms, and would allow users to designate a trusted third-party service to manage their privacy and account settings, if they so choose. Since 2016, Sen. Warner has repeatedly encouraged the Commission to take stronger actions to address digital ad fraud, including by better understanding the opaque and concentrated digital advertising market that has turned a blind eye to such activity.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Acting Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today applauded the inclusion of the Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bipartisan USA Telecommunications Act seeks to encourage and support U.S. innovation in the race for 5G by providing funds to support research and development in Western-based alternatives to Chinese equipment providers Huawei and ZTE.

“For too long we’ve called for our allies and trading partners to reject Huawei digital infrastructure – without providing competitively-priced, innovative alternatives that address their needs. I’m pleased to see my bipartisan, bicameral legislation included in this year’s defense funding bill,” said Sen. Warner. “I look forward to working with Senate appropriators next year to ensure that these programs – which advance major national security priorities – receive full funding in the coming year.”

“It is in our national security interests to support American competition in the 5G market and take action to counter efforts by Chinese state-directed telecommunications companies to dominate wireless technology supply chains,” Sen. Rubio said. “I was proud to secure this critical provision in the FY21 NDAA conference report that will support the development of an innovative 5G wireless network that leverages American strengths and creates American jobs in the industries of the future without relying on malign Chinese state-directed actors like Huawei and ZTE.”

The USA Telecommunications Act was introduced in January by Sens. Warner and Rubio along with Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and John Cornyn (R-TX). The legislation will reassert U.S. and Western leadership by encouraging competition with Huawei that capitalizes on U.S. software advantages, accelerating development of an open-architecture model (known as Open-RAN) that would allow for alternative vendors to enter the market for specific network components, rather than having to compete with Huawei end-to-end.

The USA Telecommunications Act is one of several of Sen. Warner’s national security priorities that were included in the final defense bill, among them the Improving Laundering Laws and Increasing Comprehensive Information Tracking of Criminal Activity in Shell Holdings (ILLICIT CASH) Act, which requires shell companies – often used as fronts for criminal activity – to disclose their true owners to the U.S. Department of Treasury, and the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act, which will restore semiconductor manufacturing back to American soil by increasing federal incentives to stimulate advanced chip manufacturing.

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WASHINGTONToday, five lawmakers in leadership roles of House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over misinformation sent President-elect Biden a letter recommending that his COVID-19 response include a focus on misinformation.

The lawmakers are Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA); House Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA); House Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL); Senate Rules Committee Ranking Member Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA).

“We write to recommend that you incorporate a focus on misinformation within your broader COVID-19 response, including by adding a leading misinformation studies expert to the Task Force,” wrote the lawmakers. “The COVID-19 infodemic is about to dangerously intersect with a misinformation-laden anti-vaccine movement that has led to tragic consequences in our country.”

“While we’re optimistic a vaccine will aid our country in short order, we worry that misinformation threatens the success of a national vaccine program. A decade of misinformation on the safety and efficacy of vaccines, propelled in recent years by social media platforms, has laid the foundation for skepticism and opposition towards the COVID-19 vaccines. In November, four in ten Americans said they would not agree to be vaccinated against COVID-19 if an FDA-approved vaccine was available at no cost,” the law makers continued.

“These concerns motivate us to urge you to add a member to the Task Force who has a deep understanding of misinformation, including its causes, exacerbating factors, and ways to combat it. Professor Joan Donovan is ideally situated for the role. She is one of the world’s leading scholars of misinformation,” the lawmakers wrote. “Professor Donovan also has a background in health and life sciences and has recently been studying COVID-19 misinformation.”

You can read the full text of the letter HERE.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senator Brian Schatz and their congressional colleagues in calling for the expansion of access to telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic to be made permanent. Provisions from the CONNECT for Health Act, legislation introduced by Warner and cosponsored by Kaine, have allowed Medicare beneficiaries in all areas of the country, and in their homes, to utilize telehealth services, as well as more types of health care providers to provide telehealth, were included in previous COVID-19 legislation but will expire following the pandemic unless congressional leaders act to make those measures permanent.

“Telehealth has been a critical tool during the COVID-19 pandemic in ensuring that patients can continue to receive the health care services that they need while minimizing the spread of the virus and keeping health care providers and patients healthy and safe,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). “We continue to hear from our constituents and health care providers that the uncertainty about the long-term future of Medicare telehealth coverage is a barrier to organizations investing fully in telehealth. Congress needs to act now to better serve patients and health care providers during the pandemic, and to ensure that telehealth remains an option after the pandemic is over.”

In their letter, the lawmakers highlight the growing use and benefits of telehealth during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as patients seek to avoid traveling to hospitals and other providers and instead receive care at home. New data shows that the number of Medicare beneficiaries using telehealth services increased by nearly 13,000 percent in just a month and a half during the pandemic.

Senators Warner and Kaine have been longtime advocates for increased access to health care through telehealth. In June, Warner and Kaine sent a letter to Senate leadership calling for the permanent expansion of access to telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Kaine also introduced bipartisan legislation in 2019 to expand health care to rural areas through telehealth. The bill passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee as part of the Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019.

The bipartisan and bicameral Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act, was first introduced in 2016.

The full text of the letter is below and available here.

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and Minority Leader McCarthy:

As we near the end of the year and the 116th Congress, we urge you to include provisions in end of the year legislation to make permanent expanded coverage of Medicare telehealth services. Specifically, immediate action to permanently waive geographic restrictions for originating sites, authorize health centers in rural and underserved areas to provide telehealth, and allow beneficiaries to use telehealth in their homes would be key steps to ensure much-needed certainty about Medicare telehealth coverage for health care providers and to improve access to care for patients.

Telehealth has been a critical tool during the COVID-19 pandemic in ensuring that patients can continue to receive the health care services that they need while minimizing the spread of the virus and keeping health care providers and patients healthy and safe.  Telehealth is also important in increasing capacity at health care facilities and reducing health care providers’ use of scarce personal protective equipment.  For these reasons, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance at the beginning of the pandemic advising individuals and health care providers to optimize the use of telehealth services.

The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act included provisions from our bipartisan CONNECT for Health Act to increase access to telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries during the COVID-19 pandemic.  As a result, waivers of statutory geographic and originating site restrictions have allowed Medicare beneficiaries to use telehealth services in all areas of the country, as well as in their homes.  In addition, more types of health care providers including health centers in rural and underserved areas, are authorized to provide distant site telehealth services, among other important flexibilities.  

This new authority resulted in a rapid increase in telehealth utilization.  An early analysis of the expansion of Medicare telehealth coverage during the pandemic shows that before the public health emergency, about 13,000 beneficiaries in fee-for-service Medicare received telehealth services in a week, but by the last week of April, nearly 1.7 million beneficiaries received telehealth services.  The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) also found that beneficiaries are getting care through telehealth at similar rates across demographics.  In response to these findings, CMS stated that, “The rapid adoption of telemedicine among providers and patients has shown that telehealth is here to stay.”

However, the authority for this expanded coverage of Medicare telehealth services is temporary and tied to the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration, which is renewed in three-month increments.  We continue to hear from our constituents and health care providers that the uncertainty about the long-term future of Medicare telehealth coverage is a barrier to organizations investing fully in telehealth—even now during the pandemic.  Ramping up telehealth requires significant costs—including the purchase of equipment such as tablets and webcams, telehealth platforms, additional staff, provider training, and changes to electronic health records, billing, and patient engagement processes.  Without more certainty about the future of Medicare coverage, many organizations are not investing in all of these areas to optimize the use and availability of telehealth.

Therefore, Congress needs to act now to better serve patients and health care providers during the pandemic, and to ensure that telehealth remains an option after the pandemic is over.  We understand that further data analysis is underway to assess the impact of the telehealth changes that have been available during the public health emergency.  However, to fully benefit from telehealth during the pandemic, there are steps Congress should take before the end of the year to expand access to telehealth with appropriate guardrails and beneficiary protections.

In particular, Congress should immediately provide permanent authority to waive or remove the geographic restrictions on originating sites in section 1834(m) of the Social Security Act so that a beneficiary’s ability to receive telehealth services is no longer based on where he or she lives.  Services that CMS has determined to be clinically appropriate to be delivered through telehealth should be available to all beneficiaries, not just some.  CMS concurs, stating that “The data have shown that telehealth can be an important source of care across the country, not just for those living in rural areas.”

We also urge action to permanently authorize Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics to provide distant site telehealth services and to allow patients to receive clinically appropriate telehealth services in their homes.  These actions would address the restrictions on originating sites that CMS has stated are the greatest barriers to the expansion of Medicare telehealth services as well as ensure that health centers can continue their pivotal role in providing health care in rural and underserved areas.   

Telehealth is an area of strong bipartisan support, and Congress can, and should, act now to lead the way in ensuring expanded access to telehealth.  We appreciate your collaboration on this important issue.

Sincerely,

 

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