Two bipartisan pieces of legislation put forth by U.S. Congressman Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) were included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 passed through the U.S. House of Representatives today. The Securing American Science and Technology Act, or SASTA, was included in the base language of the bill and works to address academic espionage at our institutions of higher education. An amendment to direct the Department of Defense to work towards identifying and addressing manipulated media content like “deepfakes” was also included in the bill with unanimous support.
“I am pleased to see both these pieces of legislation included in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act,” said Congressman Gonzalez. “While this bill overall failed to provide adequate funding for our military and rejected key defense initiatives to deter our adversaries, it is encouraging that we were able to come together on these initiatives to secure the great research being done at our universities and combat deepfake technology that puts our country at risk. I look forward to continuing to push for the inclusion of this legislation as the House and Senate work together to reconcile differences between our two bills.”
Congressman Gonzalez first introduced SASTA alongside Rep. Mikie Sherril (D-NJ) in May of this year. The legislation importantly works to address academic espionage at U.S. colleges and universities by promoting the standardization of federal agency approaches to academic espionage while maintaining collaboration and a welcoming environment for foreign talent at our academic institutions. Universities throughout the state of Ohio are on the cutting edge of innovation and advancement, which has made their research programs a top target for nations like China, who are actively stealing intellectual property and world-renowned research and development. SASTA works to secure this ground-breaking and sometimes sensitive research by establishing an interagency working group of science, intelligence and security agencies to evaluate existing mechanisms of control for federally funded research and develop a policy framework to address the security needs of agencies and grant recipients. It also facilitates an ongoing dialogue among federal science and security agencies and academia to share best practices on protecting this important research and keeping our universities safe.
In addition to this critical legislation, Rep. Gonzalez’s amendment to combat “deepfakes,” offered alongside Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA), was included in the bill with unanimous support. The legislation directs the Department of Defense to take steps to identify and address manipulated media content that put our national security at risk. Deepfake technology has developed rapidly over the past several years with no clear method of identifying and stopping it from becoming a major national security threat. Developing technology to identify and label this manipulated content is critical to preventing foreign actors from using manipulated images and videos to shift U.S. public opinion. As the House NDAA bill proceeds to conference with the U.S. Senate, Rep. Gonzalez will push for inclusion of these two important pieces of legislation in the final bill.