Distributed Ledgers Included in Tech ‘Focus’ Bill Passed by US Senate

The U.S. Senate has passed the Endless Frontier Act, a bipartisan bill tackling China’s recent technology efforts by creating a new technology directorate that includes blockchain as a main focus.

The bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), passed in a 68-32 vote late Tuesday, includes distributed ledger technologies and cybersecurity as one of 10 “key technology focus areas,” following an amendment by Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.). A second provision will require the federal government to examine the potential national security implications of China’s digital renminbi.

This includes financial surveillance, illicit finance and economic coercion risks, according to the bill.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives, where Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) has already introduced its counterpart.

The bill’s other provisions take aim at issues like semiconductor production, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, communications and energy efficiency, among others. “Blockchain” and “cryptocurrency” do not make an appearance in the bill’s language.

The new Directorate for Technology and Innovation will “strengthen the leadership of the United States in critical technologies,” the bill said, by “improving education” in the key focus areas and hopefully “attracting more students to such areas.”

The directorate will also work with state and federal government agencies.

“This is a national security issue, and if the U.S. does not respond we will be left behind,” Lummis previously told CoinDesk in a statement. “This amendment will put our research and development efforts regarding blockchain and financial innovation into high gear, something that is desperately needed.”

The bill must pass the House and be signed into law by President Joe Biden before it can take effect. As of press time, the House version of the Endless Frontier Act did not include any language around distributed ledgers. A spokesperson for Khanna did not immediately return a request for comment.

UPDATE (June 8, 2021, 23:47 UTC): Updates with digital renminbi provision.