The NDAA Is Fatally Flawed And Threatens National Security

REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Cesar Conda Contributor
Font Size:

Looking at some of the early Christmas gifts buried deep on the National Defense Authorization Act for both liberals like Elizabeth Warren and our enemies like North Korea and Iran, it’s almost hard believe Republicans won an election in November.

Somehow, deep in the fine print almost no one in Washington ever reads, are a series of provisions snuck in to the NDAA by Senator Warren and Obama Administration holdovers at the Defense Department that will actually make America less safe and grow government bureaucracy.

The first Warren provision forces all new DOD technology to be built with so-called “open source” software. It was open source software that Equifax was using when hackers stole the identities of 143 million Americans. “Open source” means that the code at the very center of how the technology is run is open to be viewed by anyone. In fact, Sen. Warren’s provision in the NDAA specifically calls for any such software put in place at the Dept. of Defense to be made “available to anyone for any purpose” by the Secretary of Defense ‘for the public good.’ But the only good that will come out of it is for Russia, North Korea and Iran and other countries that want to more easily hack American military systems.

The new language also separately requires all technology to be built by only in-house government contractors. It’s impossible to understand why the government would be building new technology itself.  Since when is the U.S. government more sophisticated than private industry when it comes to technology and software? In fact, just a few months back a former Defense Department CIO in a presentation to Congress reported that the Pentagon was DECADES behind in technology.  So the very-behind department is now going to develop its own new technology?  That doesn’t sound right. 

Upon further investigation I read that the department would make use of two operations – built by and chock-filled with Obama Administration officials — called U.S. Digital Service and 18F. Two groups that are U.S government entities that have an interest in doing away with having the government ever contract with private companies. 

Each of these departments has approximately 200 developer-types, all paid for by your tax dollars, and charged with charging other government agencies for digital support.  The Obama Administration was in love with the idea of running whiz-bang tech startup-like government agencies inside the bureaucracy, but once he vacated the White House I thought they’d be shown the door.  Instead, Senator Warren is working overtime to slide provisions into bill language to bolster these startups-on-welfare.

I’m not so sure those are the government workers I want developing the technology that should be strengthening our national security.  In fact, on their website, 18F promises to work transparently by using “open source and open data.”  As mentioned above, not so sure we want that to be the motto for our most sensitive national security and homeland security programs!

Finally, as if eliminating all competition from the private sector and endangering national defense by “open sourcing” everything at DoD wasn’t enough, Sen. Warren has also somehow managed to slip a provision into the NDAA that would confiscate the intellectual property of private sector technology companies already working with the Defense Department.

That’s right, there’s a final provision she has snuck in – Sec. 881 – that would seek to force every technology company currently working with the DoD to hand over their source code as a condition of continuing to work with the Defense Department. For most technology companies, their source code is about the most important trade secret they own. They should never be asked to hand it over. And to ask for it violates every contract the DoD signed with them previously.

The American people deserve the best, most sophisticated developers and technologists working to build programs that protect the country.  What we don’t need is a bunch of Obama holdovers looking for job security. There is no place for Elizabeth Warren and her dangerous, liberal provisions in the NDAA.