Information Technology accounts for almost $90 billion of the federal budget each year, but in the recent presidential election cycle in which candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have spent much of their air time trying to defend past personal transgressions, tech policy has gotten scant attention from either of the White House hopefuls despite the fact that one of them will soon have the final authority over that budget request before it’s sent to Congress for the next four years.
In a few fleeting scenarios, however, the presidential candidates have given focus to technology issues like cybersecurity — you know, “the cyber,” as Trump calls it — internet freedom and more that affect the federal IT community.
Before you take to the polls Tuesday, here’s a recap of those stances, particularly for those impassioned techies who need one last push.
Hillary Clinton wants to extend many of the tech policy points of fellow Democrat outgoing President Barack Obama (all of which you can find laid out in her policy paper from June), including the Cybersecurity National Action Plan. Clinton would “prioritize the enforcement of well-known cybersecurity standards, such as multi-factor authentication, as well as the mitigation of risks from known vulnerabilities” and “encourage government agencies to consider innovative tools like bug bounty programs, modeled on the Defense Department’s recent ‘Hack the Pentagon’ initiative, to encourage hackers to responsibly disclose vulnerabilities they discover to the government.”
In the private sector, Clinton supports “expanded investment in cybersecurity technologies, as well as public-private collaboration on cybersecurity innovation, responsible information sharing on cyber threats, and accelerated adoption of best practices such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework.”
Aside from coining the new phrase “the cyber,” Trump says that upon becoming president, he’d “order an immediate review of all U.S. cyber defenses and vulnerabilities, including critical infrastructure, by a Cyber Review Team of individuals from the military, law enforcement, and the private sector.”
Much of Trump’s stated focus in the cyber realm has been around not just defense but offense as well. His policy says he would order the “Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to provide recommendations for enhancing U.S. Cyber Command, with a focus on both offense and defense in the cyber domain” and “Develop the offensive cyber capabilities we need to deter attacks by both state and non-state actors and, if necessary, to respond appropriately.”
Watch the candidates duke it out on cybersecurity during a nationally televised September debate:
Hillary supports the multi-stakeholder approach to internet governance, believing it’s better left to “the global community of engineers, companies, civil society groups, and internet users, and not to governments,” a stance she’s had dating back since her time as secretary of state. Particularly, she favored “the Department of Commerce’s plans to formally transition its oversight role in the management of the Domain Name System to the global community of stakeholders, viewing the transition as a critical step towards safeguarding the internet’s openness for future generations.”
“She will continue to fight to defend the internet from government takeover and to empower those internet governance organizations that advance internet openness, freedom, and technical innovation,” her policy page says.
The Donald is a complete 180 from his counterpart. Trump was in opposition of the Commerce Department relinquishing control of the DNS. “The U.S. should not turn control of the Internet over to the United Nations and the international community,” his policy director said in September, days before the transition.
“The U.S. created, developed and expanded the Internet across the globe. U.S. oversight has kept the Internet free and open without government censorship – a fundamental American value rooted in our Constitution’s Free Speech clause. Internet freedom is now at risk with the President’s intent to cede control to international interests, including countries like China and Russia, which have a long track record of trying to impose online censorship. Congress needs to act, or Internet freedom will be lost for good, since there will be no way to make it great again once it is lost,” he said.
Digital, Open Government
In her tech agenda from this summer, Clinton vowed again to continue in Obama’s footsteps by promoting an open and digital-first government. Particularly, she pledged to make the U.S. Digital Service and other federal digital teams permanent. “There should be a constant flow of technology and design experts working to make it easier for Americans to get affordable health insurance, apply for student loans, or get the veterans benefits they deserve,” her policy page says. “Hillary will expand dedicated Digital Service teams throughout federal agencies (including civil servants and outside experts), and ensure that CIOs are part of this innovation agenda. She will maintain support for other federal tech programs—18F, Innovation Fellows, and Innovation Labs—and look to them to develop a coordinated approach to tackling pressing technology problems.”
Clinton says she would enlist USDS to transform and digitize “the top 25 federal government services that directly serve citizens.”
Also, without getting too specific on anything, Clinton’s agenda says she’d more effectively manage the federal spend on IT and extend the federal open data movement.
Trump has been mostly mum on any operations-based federal IT or government technology policy. With the exception of “cyberwarfare” and the impact of digital technologies on the private sector, Trump hasn’t said much on digital technologies in relation to federal agencies.
And many in the tech community aren’t too keen on his lack of a tech stance. In July, the Information Technology Industry Council called on Trump to “get into the game” and release his positions on major tech issues like his opponent did. Later that month, TechNet CEO Linda Moore wrote, “TechNet is pleased that one candidate has taken up the challenge. We hope that the other major candidate in the race for president will lay out his technology and innovation policy agenda as well so that voters can assess them side-by-side.”
But even without a detailed tech policy, more than 140 innovators, entrepreneurs and technologists endorsed an open letter in July claiming that “Trump would be a disaster for innovation.”
For a more complete look at the two candidates’ stances across the broader technology landscape, check out the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation’s report comparing their positions.