Policy Update for January-February 2020

The following post was originally set as an email newsletter to our friends and supporters.

Re: Lincoln Policy Team Activities for January-February, 2020

Dear friends and supporters of Lincoln:

First, I wanted to give you an update about our expanded policy team. As you can see from the graphic below, we’ve added a few new people. This includes Marshall Kosloff, who will be leading our outreach in DC and producing new original content; Jessica Dang, who’s leading our events and outreach in the Bay Area; and Alexiaa Jordan, who will be working on innovation and national security policy issues with Dan Lips. Sean Roberts, and internet security engineer, is also working with us on cyber and election security issues. You can find full bios for everyone on our website, www.lincolnpolicy.org.

We’re also getting a real office in DC, which will be in the Uline building in NE. Come by and visit us soon!

Keep scrolling after the graphic to see some of what we’ve been up to in January and February, and get a preview of what’s coming up next.

Policy Hackers

Applications just closed for our new Policy Hackers fellowship program. In case you missed it, the fellowship offers a twelve month, non-resident program for technologists, founders, investors, and other industry professionals to improve their understanding of the policy world.

In total we received 117 applications for 10 slots. Companies represented include big firms like Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, as well as a variety of startups and venture capital firms. Based on our survey, 81% are optimistic about the future. The top issues they’re interested in working on include artificial intelligence, future of work, civil liberties, and open data. Their most read publications include Hacker News and The Economist (great choices). About a third of applicants are in rank-and-file positions, while half are in management (including a few in the C-suite).

We’re looking forward to starting interviews to select our inaugural class, which we’ll be announcing later this month.

Reboot 2020

We’ve launched our landing page for Lincoln’s big annual conference, Reboot 2020,  which will take place in San Francisco on November 11-12 (yep, that’s right after the election). Check it out here: rebootconference.org.

Interested in pitching us content ideas? Just reply to this email.

Modernizing Congress

In January, I co-authored a paper with Daniel Schuman published by the Harvard Ash Center. The paper lays out a roadmap for how Congress can build greater capacity and expertise on science and technology. TL;DR? There’s a one-pager version here. To launch the paper, we organized a Capitol Hill briefing with the Ash Center on February 21. It featured a lively debate with Heritage’s Diane Katz, and was followed by a salon dinner of S&T experts in DC.

Speaking of technology assessment, we also published an excellent symposium on science and technology advice for Congress. The series was edited by Adam Keiper and Elizabeth Foz, and is licensed under Creative Commons. Check them out below:

On this subject, Issues in Science and Technology also featured a number of thoughtful responses to my earlier article with Dr. Robert Cook-Deegan on ethics and technical advice for Congress. You can read them here.

In January, Garrett Johnson published an op-ed in The Hill co-authored with R Street’s Tony Mills, “Why taxpayers should support expanding the GAO.” They make the case for why we should strengthen Congress’s oversight agency, which reports a savings of $338 for every dollar of its budget. They write:

It may seem counter-intuitive to ask fiscal conservatives to support expanding Congress’s capabilities, especially at a time when resources are scarce and the national debt is $23 trillion. But investing in GAO will yield long-term savings and better equip the Constitution’s first branch to do its job.

In February, I also co-authored an op-ed on GAO in The Hill, teaming up with Issue One’s Nilmini Rubin: “Support for government accountability shouldn’t be a casualty of impeachment drama.” We write:

With the 2020 impeachment chapter of American politics closed, Congress will need to refocus on the governance challenges long-identified by conservatives — including a ballooning federal debt and ineffective executive agencies. Congress needs a strong and trusted GAO for the hard work ahead.

I also participated in a symposium and workshop that covered the issue of technical expertise in government hosted by the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology on February 27-29.

On March 3, we teamed up with the Federalist Society’s Article I Initiative to put together an off-the-record convening with Rep. Tom Graves, who’s the co-chair of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress (which is doing a lot of excellent work). The event was well attended by center-right groups and covered a range of important upcoming issues, but that’s about all I can say about it.

On March 4, my colleague Dan Lips testified before the House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, discussing strengthening GAO’s science and technology work (he also had a great blog on it here and an interview with Federal News Radio). I also submitted written comments for the record for the hearing addressing similar issues and requesting report language. Notably, Comptroller General Gene Dodaro’s testimony on the GAO budget request also focused extensively on science and technology capacity.

As appropriations season goes into full swing, you’ll probably see us a lot more on the Hill.

Other Events

In early January, I spoke on a panel at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas titled, “Should Big Tech Be Broken Up?” You can watch it here.

Later that month, we co-sponsored the Day One Project‘s conference at the National Academy of Sciences aimed at fostering new innovation policy ideas for current and future administrations. The event featured a fascinating chat between Tom Kalil and Tyler Cowen, as well as one with me and Kumar Garg on innovation policy. You can watch mine here. The event was covered by the Washington Post, which featured a nice quote from me.

In February, we hosted a fantastic dinner in Palo Alto on national security, tech, and China. It was led by Dan Lips, and featured prominent scholars from the surrounding universities, in addition to VCs, government, companies, and think tanks.

We also organized a public event in San Francisco on protocols vs. platforms, featuring Lincoln’s Marshall Kosloff, Mike Masnick, Cory Doctorow, and others. You can watch the whole thing here, or listen to it on TechDirt’s podcast.

Coming up next we’re planning a salon dinner in New York in late March on tech and the conservative realignment, and salon dinners in DC in April on 5G and China and election security, and an event on data portability and interoperability. After that we’re planning an event on CFIUS in the Bay Area in May, as well as programming around our fellowship.

Other Writings

Dan Lips had his inaugural piece in Lawfare on how states could use unspent DHS grants to improve cyber resilience for our elections. He writes:

Protecting the 2020 election from foreign interference is a bipartisan, national priority. DHS and states should work together to use some of the billions in unspent homeland security grant funds to improve state and local cyber defenses before November.

I have two recent pieces in the Claremont Institute’s American Mind. The first, titled “Governance Over Ideology,” weighs in on Sen. Marco Rubio’s speech about industrial policy and national security. I write:

There’s a certain hubris on the right about the inferiority of communism to the capitalist system….This has taken form in the idea that China “can’t innovate, and can only copy.” Meanwhile, last year China outpaced the U.S. in number of unicorns—firms with $1 billion or more valuation—and essentially closed the gap on R&D funding….If we want to be more competitive, first we should understand what makes American innovation successful.

I also have a related blog post on innovation and American competitiveness here.

The second American Mind piece, titled “A New Tech Agenda Requires Expertise and Realism,” argues that the libertarian framework of permissionless innovation is mostly right, but doesn’t tell the whole story and is often misapplied. At the same time, emerging conservative tech critics make some valid points, but they have a lot to learn. I write:

Instead of seeking to punish tech companies as an end in itself, conservative tech critics need to build expertise first and articulate thoughtful policies that advance conservative ends. Rather than trying to punish and destroy, they should try to promote competition and variety

On the Lincoln blog, we also recently published an interesting piece on algorithmic bias by Mike Wacker, a former Google software engineer. The piece is titled: “In Algorithms We Trust? The Story of Google Search.”

Also on the blog, Ryan Khurana lays out the case against non-competes and also writes about the White House’s AI principles, Lars Schonander discusses machine learning and the data annotation industry, Jess Miers discusses copyright for APIs, and Dan Lips explains how advanced data science can help improve government efficiency and oversight.

We also joined coalition efforts on modernizing Congress, utilizing C-band spectrum, and were quoted in a White House release on their 2021 budget and federal R&D.

Signing Off

You won’t be hearing from me for a bit after today, since I’ll be taking a week off in Portugal. But I’d love to hear from you about what you think of any of our recent work, or if you’re interested in what we have coming up, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I’m back.


Zach Graves
Head of Policy, Lincoln Network


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