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Stephanie Hall

Promoting Cybersecurity Necessary for Manufacturing 4.0

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This week in Chicago, the National Association of Manufacturers hosted more than 100 cybersecurity leaders from manufacturing organizations small and large at a Leading Edge-sponsored Cybersecurity Executive Forum. The event provided an opportunity for CISOs, CIOs, CTOs and technical experts to share experiences and discuss best practices for boosting manufacturers’ cybersecurity posture. Through deep dives on the cyber-threat landscape in 2019 and the changes in the industry brought by Manufacturing 4.0, including automation and rapid technological innovation, it is clear that cybersecurity remains a top priority for operational experts across our sector. As such, getting cybersecurity policy right should remain a priority for policymakers committed to ensuring the success of manufacturing in the digital age.

We need to be clear-eyed about the challenges ahead in order to properly address them, and manufacturers are ready to lead. According to a recent survey by the Manufacturing Leadership Council, a division of the NAM, more than 60 percent of manufacturers expect cyber-attacks to increase in 2019. As manufacturers incorporate new, connected technologies into their processes, operations and products, these cybersecurity experts know the entry points for bad actors multiply. These challenges are heightened for manufacturers in particular given the lengthy lifecycles of manufacturing equipment and products. To remain competitive, manufacturers are incorporating big data into their operations, and to do so successfully, they must connect legacy equipment securely.

Awareness of the cybersecurity challenge has increased across the industry, and manufacturers are committed to progress and thinking about security at the outset as the industry transitions to Manufacturing 4.0. Manufacturers know safety—just step onto a shop floor and you’ll see hard hats, hazard warnings and processes engineered with employee and client wellbeing in mind. We must now ensure the same posture for the digital side of shop floors. At this week’s event, the VP of IT Security for Schneider Electric, a leader in this space, highlighted that cybersecurity is progressing across manufacturing because companies are working to expand this well-established culture of safety to create a culture of security.

As manufacturers do their part, policymakers can help by continuing to recognize the leadership across industry in cybersecurity and the benefit of public-private collaboration in the face of common cyber threats. They should also work to increase the cost on cyber criminals, improve the sharing of cyber threat information to industry and take steps to develop a cybersecurity workforce for the future. Continued industry-led advances in cybersecurity also depend on having the right policies in place on data privacy and security, including replacing the regulatory burden that comes from a patchwork of regulations on IoT, privacy and security at the international and state level with appropriate federal policies. The NAM will continue to work with policymakers to pursue policies that allow manufacturers large and small to realize the wealth of benefits from Manufacturing 4.0.

H-4 Spousal Work Authorization Faces Challenges on Multiple Fronts

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Manufacturers are making the case in support of these workers.

According to numbers released just yesterday, there are currently 477,000 open jobs in the manufacturing sector—and manufacturers could struggle to fill millions in coming years, according to a 2018 Skills Gap Study by Deloitte and the NAM’s education and workforce partner, the Manufacturing Institute. While manufacturers are generally optimistic about the outlook for their industry, thanks in part to things like tax reform and regulatory reform, workforce concerns are a real source of uncertainty.

More than 71% of manufacturers cite their inability to attract skilled workers as a top challenge. They know that their continued ability to realize the benefits of a pro-business environment demands a workforce up to the task, which is why they are working hard to recruit more Americans into the industry and it’s why they are competing with countries around the world to attract and retain talent that can help move our American economy forward.  

Yet, despite the global competition for talent, the Department of Homeland Security is considering a change that would rapidly remove 91,000 individuals from the workforce, negatively impact the H-1B visa program and reduce companies’ ability to recruit top talent moving forward. Such changes would come in the form of rescinding work authorization for H-4 spouses of certain H-1B employees awaiting permanent residency. The same H-4 Rule is also being challenged in court. Accordingly, this week the NAM, along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Information Technology Industry Council, filed an amicus brief in support of H-4 work permits in that court case.

Currently, thanks to a 2015 rule promulgated by DHS, the H-4 spouses of certain H-1B employees can obtain work permits in order to pursue careers, support their families and contribute to their communities. This is important because these H-1B employees are already approved for permanent residency and are awaiting green cards. Even after being approved, the wait time in the green card backlog can stretch years due to outdated per-country caps in the law and having a spouse eligible to work helps keep workforce talent here in the United States. Our brief makes the case that the H-4 Rule is within DHS’ authority to provide work authorizations for categories of individuals legally present in the United States. It also provides the court with a clear picture of what’s at stake to our economy, these workers and their employers if the H-4 Rule is eliminated.

According to a recent economic analysis of the H-4 Rule, H-4 spouses are highly educated and skilled, with 99-percent of the population possessing a college degree and almost sixty percent with a master’s degree. Two-thirds of H-4 spouses work in the STEM field, which are jobs critical for modern manufacturing. The 91,000 H-4 spouses with work permits contribute approximately $5.5 billion to U.S. gross domestic product each year. H-4 spouses contribute $1.9 billion to federal coffers each year, and state and local governments would lose approximately $530 million in tax revenue per year if H-4 work permits were revoked.

Rescinding the H-4 Rule would also result in significant hardship for these families. That same analysis of the H-4 population found that nearly 90% of these families made a major life decision based on the work authorization permitted by the H-4 Rule, including decisions to have children, purchase a home or invest in additional education. Furthermore, rescinding the H-4 Rule would have ripple effects on those who employ H-4 spouses, individuals employed by H-4 spouses who have started their own businesses, as well as companies who rely on H-1B workers who may decide to relocate to a country that allows their spouse to work.

The NAM is working to protect H-4 work permits while also advocating for broad reform to our broken immigration system. Protecting work permits for H-4 spouses and eliminating per-country caps that are contributing to today’s green card backlog are two aspects of immigration reform needed to boost manufacturers’ global competitiveness. The NAM recognizes and addresses these needs and others in our comprehensive immigration proposal, “A Way Forward.” Read more about that plan here.

Old Ideas on So-Called “Net Neutrality” Resurface in the New Congress

By | Culture and Entertainment, Economy, Regulations, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy, Technology | No Comments

Senator Ed Markey and Representative Mike Doyle recently introduced the Save the Internet Act in the Senate and House (S. 682 and H.R. 1644 respectively). The bills resurrect some old ideas on regulating the internet in the name of so-called “net neutrality”. Today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing entitled “Legislating to Safeguard the Free and Open Internet” where they considered this legislation.

Manufacturers agree that Congress, rather than the Federal Communications Commission, should act to establish a predictable legislative framework for a free and open internet, but the bill the committee considered today is not the way to do so. The Save the Internet Act would repeal the FCC’s most recent action that replaced heavy-handed, Obama-era regulations with sensible regulations designed for the internet of today. And, rather than provide new ideas to bring our nation’s communications law into the 21st century, the bills would then reinstate those earlier overly-burdensome regulations classifying the internet as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.

Title II regulations are not the correct way to achieve an open internet. They ignore the competitive landscape of the marketplace and, based on a law enacted before color television much less the internet, fail to account for the internet as it exists today. They would have the unintended effect of harming consumers and industry by injecting further regulatory uncertainty into the shifting federal approach to broadband, potentially stymying private sector capital investments. The FCC’s most recent actions only went into effect last summer, and the sensationalized predictions that they would signal the end to an open internet were not accurate.

Manufacturers depend on a reliable telecommunications infrastructure to connect and enable manufacturing technologies. While the legislation the House committee considered today would unquestionably be a step backwards, the National Association of Manufacturers encourages Congress to consider forward-thinking legislative solutions for our nation’s broadband future—solutions that apply fairly across the internet ecosystem and provide the certainty necessary for our industry’s continued innovation.

Next Generation Broadband: Making Regulations Work for Innovation

By | Infrastructure, Innovation, Shopfloor Main | No Comments

Later this month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on a proposal to modernize existing regulations to speed the deployment of next generation wireless across the country. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr recently unveiled a plan to support the buildout of 5G, noting the need “to update our rules to match this revolutionary new technology.” Manufacturers agree and support Commissioner Carr’s proposal, along with a similar effort in the Senate with Chairman John Thune’s (R-SD) STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act (S. 3157).

Existing regulations for broadband infrastructure were designed for the technology of previous generations of wireless, which required siting decisions for 200-foot towers that would transmit signals over large swaths of land. Next generation broadband will be delivered through multiple “small cells”—devices that are much less intrusive and more much more numerous. The FCC’s plan would cut through a complex web of hurdles at the local level that could delay 5G buildout. It would ensure cities and towns charge reasonable fees, and it would shorten the shot clock for local regulators to act on build-out requests, while maintaining a role for local control over aspects of small cell placement decisions.

Next generation wireless broadband will unlock further innovation across the manufacturing ecosystem. The Internet of Things has transformed the way manufacturers do business, and today’s shop floors are quickly developing and deploying emerging technologies. Manufacturing operations are more data intensive than ever before. Improved processing speeds and increased wireless capacity with 5G will lead to advancements in data-heavy tasks, like those associated with connected devices and Artificial Intelligence.

The private sector is already investing in broadband infrastructure and the innovations that will be powered by 5G technology. Federal policymakers can help by ensuring the regulatory framework keeps pace with the evolving nature of mobile technology. We applaud Commissioner Carr and the Senate’s STREAMLINE Act sponsors for advancing proposals to clear the way for next generation broadband innovation.