U.S. Senate Defense Bill Targets Further Blockchain Study

The $700-billion Defense Bill making its way through the U.S. Senate will create a new study into blockchain and cybersecurity risks, under the auspices of the Department of Defense.

The bill, which was passed by the Senate this week, will empower the Department of Defense to investigate blockchain technology, and the cybersecurity implications of the technology, as part of a multi-billion-dollar injection of funds into the department.

The package, which was initially designed to bolster U.S. military resources, comes with a last-minute amendment from Ohio senator Rob Portman, and will now “require a report on cyber applications of blockchain technology” as part of its taking legal effect.

The amendment was agreed upon unanimously ahead of a final vote on the bill, and will now see the Department of Defense commissioning the study into the security aspects of the technology.

According to the text of the amendment, the report will look at the various potential applications of blockchain technology, and how these technologies could be used against the interests of the U.S. state.

“...a report on the potential offensive and defensive cyber applications of blockchain technology and other distributed database technologies and an assessment of efforts by foreign powers, extremist organizations, and criminal networks to utilize these technologies.”

The study is due to be released six months from the date the bill is passed into law, and will see an increasing focus on how cryptocurrencies and the underlying distributed ledger technology can be used in criminal, terror and potential national security scenarios.

While passing the Senate represents a major milestone for the bill, there still remain several key hurdles in its path before eventually becoming law.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar bill earlier in the summer. However, the distinctions in the Senate bill mean there must now be a political negotiation before either version, or an amalgamation of the two, can be passed into law.

For the time being, the legislation remains caught up in process, with no firm indications about when a version might be passed into law.

However, the intent behind the provisions is clear, and there is an expectation that the cybersecurity study will ultimately go ahead, as part of this new package of measures.