Wicker, Lummis Introduce National R&D Strategy for Distributed Ledger Technology Act

May 2, 2022

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., ranking member of the Subcommittee on Space and Science, today introduced the National R&D Strategy for Distributed Ledger Technology Act that would require the federal government to coordinate research and development efforts on distributed ledger technologies (DLT) and their applications. DLT, which includes the more commonly known blockchain technology, builds on decades of research in cryptography and distributed systems to enable information systems with improved access, interoperability, and guarantees of data integrity. It is also one of the key technology focus areas named in the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), on which the U.S. Senate agreed to go to conference with the House of Representatives last week. 

“It is imperative that we maintain global leadership in the development of emerging technologies, including distributed ledger technology,” Wicker said. “This bill would launch pivotal exploration into this promising and novel architecture for computing and data storage. I am optimistic that our legislation will spur practical innovations that go far beyond financial applications.” 

“Distributed ledger technology has the potential to make commerce more secure and transparent, as well as reduce marketplace friction. Distributed ledgers have a wide range of applications from supply chain management to healthcare records. In Wyoming, ranchers can track their products all the way to market using distributed ledger technology. We need to make sure existing regulations do not stand in the way of innovation. I am excited to partner with Ranking Member Wicker on this bill,” Lummis said.

DLT is widely known as the foundational technology enabling cryptocurrencies and other digital assets such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs). However, potential use cases for DLT also include supply chain transparency, digital identity, information management, and more. Applications of DLT could bolster individuals’ ownership of their data, improve the quality and security of online services, and streamline regulatory compliance for businesses.

Other nations, including China, have recognized and invested in the development of these potential applications of DLT. The Chinese Communist Party has already helped to launch the Blockchain Service Network as part of its larger ambition to establish a “digital silk road.” However, there is presently no set of coordinated R&D priorities across U.S. Federal agencies for supporting transformative research in this significant space. This legislation would fill a gap in current federal science policy while promoting responsible innovation across the country. 

The National R&D Strategy for Distributed Ledger Technology Act would:

  • Require the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to, in coordination with other relevant Federal agencies, develop a national R&D strategy for DLT and its practical applications. 
  • Require the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue supporting research on DLT and its applications, with particular attention to several areas that are under-invested in by the private sector. 
  • Require the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to engage in an applied research project to study and demonstrate the potential benefits of DLT. 

 To read the bill, click here.