Guest Opinion: Empowering American innovation

Recent reports of Russian and Chinese cyber-attacks on Ukraine along with President Biden’s warning to U.S. businesses to strengthen their cybersecurity in response to economic sanctions imposed on Russia, reveal the vital role American technology innovators play in our national security defense. In a world that is more digitally connected than ever, with nearly every organization having some sort of online presence or technological underpinning, the importance of strengthening domestic tech innovation and our cybersecurity cannot be understated.

The American tech industry helps develop systems that strengthen our national security and cybersecurity. In the face of rising authoritarian regimes, ensuring we are able to rely on our own domestic tech sector for the tools our private sector and governments leverage every day is vitally important. Imagine if these businesses or local governments had to rely on a Chinese or Russian-based app and the potential risks that could pose to their privacy and data security.

According to the recently released Annual Threat Assessment (ATA), which highlights the most pressing and serious threats to the United States, China and Russia are top on the list for cyber threats. The report writes, “We assess that China presents the broadest, most active, and persistent cyber-espionage threat to U.S. Government and private sector networks.” Along the same lines,the ATA also reports, “Russia will remain a top cyber threat as it refines and employs its espionage, influence, and attack capabilities.” Despite these warnings by the ATA, Congress is working to break up and restrict American tech companies that play a crucial role in our national and cyber defense strategy, and is overlooking the deeper issue of cyber threats on our critical infrastructure and other U.S. targets by our adversaries.

To strengthen our cyber capabilities and protect our public and private sectors, we must develop collaborations across the federal government and partnerships with the private sector on data protection and cybersecurity to maintain our competitive edge and protect our businesses and governments.

The U.S. and China are in a high stakes battle to advance domestic tech innovations and be the leader of the digital world. To do so, China is committed to working to overtake U.S. tech advancement by any means possible, including subsidies, discriminatory regulations, and other preferential barriers that strengthen its position while keeping U.S. competitors out. At home, Washington is considering anti-innovation legislation that will weaken America’s tech leadership and innovators who are a driving force behind important innovative technology breakthroughs and keeping us competitive against China.

If our Senators move this legislation forward, the U.S. is risking critical long-term national security consequences including policies that could relinquish our competitive edge to our adversaries with distinctly different values.

Our American tech sector plays an essential role in the development of artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, machine learning, and other emerging technologies. Misguided legislation that could potentially hamstring a sector as vital to our national security and economy as the tech industry should first be evaluated to ensure we have a clear understanding of the unintended consequences. Antitrust laws have helped ensure that consumers are protected from anticompetitive behavior and that consumer welfare standard is being upheld, but these anti-competitive proposals will increase the federal government’s reach over the private sector, change standards that have worked for decades, and risk putting our domestic tech leadership at a disadvantage.

A number of elected officials are eager to rush antitrust legislation that aims to break up America’s most innovative technology companies, many of the very companies that are working to strengthen our national and cyber defenses and that help spur economic growth. Members of the Utah Federal delegation should reject efforts to drastically expand federal government power by changing current antitrust laws. Instead of creating unique competition legislation for every sector of the economy, we should let the court and regulating bodies ensure companies are playing by existing rules.

Rep. Kera Birkeland represents Utah House District 53.