Technology under Commerce and Wilbur Ross

Published: January 25, 2017

Cloud ComputingDOCCybersecurityInformation TechnologyInternet of ThingsPresident Trump

During his nomination hearing last week, Trump’s pick for Commerce, Wilbur Ross, outlined various stances on technology for the department.

With the formal withdrawal by President Donald Trump to remove the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the topic of trade, the Department of Commerce and its potential leader, Wilbur Ross, are quickly making recent headlines. However, Ross’ views on technology for the agency during his nomination hearing last week are what really perked up my ears.

Wilbur Ross is a billionaire investor known for buying, revamping and selling companies in industries such as steel, textile, coal and banking. Within his opening statement, Ross cites that he was involved in other capacities that may relate him to some of the many hats Commerce wears, including being a Census taker while in business school and a vice chair of the Utilities Undergrounding Task Force in southern Florida.  Moreover, the nominee has been heavily involved in shaping Trump’s policies on trade and infrastructure.

It seems as though his experience in the private sector has made him an advocate in the use of technology in the public space. He even states that along with utilizing energy resources and re-evaluations of insourcing and tariffs, new technologies must play an important factor in helping to raise the overall country’s GDP level.

Throughout the approximate four hour nomination hearing, Wilbur Ross was asked a variety of tech questions ranging from broadband expansion to IT modernization. Here are key takeaways on the nominee’s views of these and other tech items: 

  • Broadband: Ross considers broadband expansion an essential part of the country’s infrastructure and overall economic plans. He believes that there should always be a place for new technologies in broadband and described including room in conduits to plan for future technologies in his work for the southern Florida community as an example.
  • Cybersecurity: A potential attack on our grid, banking and transportation systems could occur, according to Ross. An overall coordinated policy will be needed by Commerce and the government as a whole to deal with and prevent these types of attacks
  • Data Analytics: Ross is a large supporter of data analytics and while responding to a question about the data surrounding international air travelers and its use in tourism he stated, “you can’t manage it if you can’t measure it”
  • Internet of Things (IoT): When asked about his commitment to the DIGIT Act, Ross responded that all aspects of IoT must be encouraged and looks forward to working with tech companies with regards to cybersecurity and IoT as he has had direct experience with this through his work with small banks
  • Spectrum: While nothing should compromise national security, the hoarding of federally owned spectrum should not exist. Ross wants to figure out how to incentivize agencies to give up their un-used bandwidth and foresees a legislative solution for the transfer from public to private.  
  • Internet Privacy: Ross acknowledged that the transfer of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) from Commerce has taken place and there is nothing further to consider, despite believing it was an incorrect solution. However, the nominee stated he would be interested in looking further into the subject should other realistic alternatives arise. With regards to the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, Ross stated that there will be a focus on balance of privacy and problems of the localization of data moving forward.
  • IT Modernization: Ross is a large proponent of cloud and found it to be the more efficient and secure in his experience in the private sector. Cloud, along with getting systems to talk to each other, will be key in modernizing Commerce. Ross stated that while he recognizes the agency has several initiatives underway, much more can be done in terms of IT modernization.