February 2, 2023
Sen. Gary Peters
U.S. Senator (D-Michigan), U.S. Senate
Vice President, C_TEC, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
With the evolution of promising new technology, private and public sector leaders are looking to advance digital transformation to create a more resilient landscape. In the public sector, this begins with modernizing existing government systems and preparing for new technological advancements.
During the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s inaugural Digital Transformation Summit, Senator Gary Peters (D-Michigan) discussed the government’s role and efforts in advancing technology in the public and private sectors.
The Technology Modernization Fund Aims to Transform Information Technology in the Public Sector
In 2017, Congress passed the Modernizing Government Technology Actto upgrade IT systems across the public sector; the act also authorized the creation of theTechnology Modernization Fund, for which policymakers secured a $1 billion investment in 2021.
“It was clear that we were just so far behind in providing the kind of modernization necessary to provide services to customers, to be able to have the cybersecurity — all of the elements of the digital transformation,” Senator Peters explained. “[Congress] came together to figure out how to provide resources to jumpstart it, and in the American Rescue Plan, we were able to secure $1 billion.”
So far, these funds have gone toward modernizing technology and streamlining processes for public sector agencies, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Homeland Security.
“We still haven’t spent it all; we want to make sure we have oversight that it’s done wisely and in a way that actually is delivering services to taxpayers,” Senator Peters added.
The Race Toward Autonomous Vehicles Offers Tremendous Opportunity
Among the most promising technological advances in recent years is the move toward autonomous vehicles.
“As we move toward self-driving cars, we’re hoping to put a framework to make sure we have the oversight necessary, [and to] also make sure the technology is free to go as fast as it possibly can,” said Senator Peters.
“The No. 1 benefit that I see is safety," he continued. “It’s also a big deal from a competitive standpoint. We’re in a race here in the United States with [other countries] … and I want to make sure it’s American companies that are leading, so we have to have a framework that works for them to go forward."
The Senator also added that, according to engineers, the growing technology behind autonomous vehicles is also “the moonshot for artificial intelligence.”
“When you have AI systems that can pilot cars through complex city environments, take in all the data that comes in, and put that together to [operate] safely, that means AI is ready for prime time in about every single industry,” he said.
The Private and Public Sectors Can Work Together to Improve Cybersecurity
Though digital transformation offers significant opportunities in the public and private sectors, it also increases the risk of cybersecurity threats. To this end, Senator Peters recommended public-private collaboration to maximize support and resources.
“I want to encourage folks here, especially those in the private sector and others that are involved in cybersecurity issues, to work with CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency),” said Senator Peters. “I’d hope you would look at this as a resource — and if that’s not a resource, I want to know why. Where are the shortfalls, and how can we make them work better?”
He also encouraged those in the private sector to “look into … grants that are part of our bipartisan infrastructure … to help local [and] state governments modernize their programs [and] strengthen their cybersecurity.”
“It’s important that we block arms and understand that we all have to work on this together,” Senator Peters added. “We’re not the solution, but we can play a big piece in the overall security of our country.”