High-Tech Manufacturers Seek to Raise Profile on Capitol Hill

By Sandra I. Erwin

A group of 23 U.S. manufacturers, including major defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Boeing, is backing a new effort to influence technology policy on Capitol Hill.

Led by the National Association of Manufacturers, the coalition is seeking to boost its visibility in a bid to influence lawmakers on issues such as cybersecurity, data sharing and intellectual property.

“Manufacturing and technology are intrinsically tied together,” although policy makers on Capitol Hill do not always understand that connection, said the association’s president and CEO Jay Timmons.

As Congress continues to debate legislation on how to protect U.S. information networks from hackers and spies, and safeguard companies’ intellectual property, it should consider how these laws affect not just tech giants like Google or Verizon, but also manufacturers in every sector of the economy, NAM officials said Oct. 31.

The new campaign, called DATA, for Driving the Agenda for Technology Advancement, will attempt to influence decision makers via studies and corporate events that will promote manufacturers’ role in driving technology.

Many policy makers and the public at large associate manufacturing with the pre-Internet age rather than with sleek, technology-driven industries. That perception must change, Timmons said. “The innovation that drives manufacturing and improves the lives of all Americans needs a national technology policy that will allow it to flourish.”

Manufacturers invest more in research and development and hold more patents than all other domestic industrial sectors combined, he said. “Their expertise and experience are critical to any technology debate.”

Tim Keating, Boeing’s senior vice president of government operations, said lawmakers should “appreciate the links between research and development, innovation, U.S. manufacturing jobs and our nation’s future economic prosperity.”

More awareness of the role of the defense and aerospace sectors in advancing technology also is needed, said Brian Raymond, NAM director of technology policy. “That story has been told, but has not been told as robustly as it could be, or in a way that folks on Capitol Hill really understand,” Raymond said.

Manufacturers across all sectors are becoming increasingly “data driven,” said Bob Fair, executive vice president of Teradata Corp. The company conducted a study that showed that manufacturers that invested in “integrated data environments” outperform their competitors by 20 percent.

The association wants to see tougher national and international rules to protect manufacturers’ intellectual property rights. “By adopting policies that safeguard IP rights, policymakers can create a business climate in which innovators can thrive,” according to NAM’s policy agenda. There is an “inseparable link between the protection of IP rights and innovation, improved trade performance, sound economic growth and strengthened national security.

NAM also has lobbied for tighter cybersecurity. “The maintenance and protection of our nation’s cyber-infrastructure is critical to manufacturers, as Internet-based threats can disrupt commerce and communication and pose a threat to our national security,” the association said. Manufacturers support greater information sharing between government and the private sector but oppose increased regulations.

The industry is calling for the U.S. government to invest more funding to secure networks, boost cybersecurity research and increase the penalties for cybercrime.

Topics: Cyber, Infotech, Infotech, Manufacturing

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