Could the Fiscal Cliff Kill NSTIC?

montgomery burns explains the fiscal cliff

Cuts are coming to US federal government spending in the new year. Cuts will come by cleaver if a “fiscal cliff avoiding” budget is passed or with a chainsaw if Congress and the President fall over the “cliff.”

High hopes fly for an international identity system that works across industries, technologies, governments, regulatory schemes and still manages to be user centric. This is driven in the United States under a program initiated by the National Strategy for Trusted Identity in Cyberspace through the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST).

Direct effects. Nobody knows if this will directly affect NIST and the NIST staff managing the NSTIC project. NIST DoC logoCould the stream of Department of Commerce funding for NSTIC innovation grants dry up and will existing projects be halted? Will NIST’s funding for the Identity Ecosystem’s Secretariat, that coördinates and supports the work of the IE, be sustained or cut? In a trillion dollar budget, today’s spending on NSTIC is a rounding error.

Indirect effects. We don’t know how cuts in federal spending will affect the program indirectly as participating businesses and NGOs lose government contracts, experience greater risk, or enjoy new opportunities.

eGovernment as customer. Will the largest government agencies stay in the game? Constituent-facing services would be among the first implementors of these open, user-centric, identity frameworks. Having huge customers as “anchor tenants” provides strong incentives for the private sector to invest and make the identity ecosystem work. Will spending cuts affecting the these major clients throughout government interfere with their projects’ continuity? Will key personnel assigned to identity ecosystem governance, design, and engineering stay engaged? Stay employed?

Lots of unknowns.

And no strategy to respond to these risks from the Identity Ecosystem Steering Group. Yet.

About Phil Wolff

Phil Wolff is strategy director of PDEC, the Personal Data Ecosystem Consortium, a Small Data NGO. Wolff is a director of the DataPortability Project and co-author of the project's model Portability Policy. He's had management, technology, and marketing roles at Adecco SA, LSI Logic, Bechtel National, Wang Laboratories, Compaq Computer, the City of Long Beach, the State of California, and the U.S. Navy Supply Systems Command. On LinkedIn, ORCID 0000-0002-7815-4750, Quora top 250 of 2012. He holds the PDQ Bach Inauthentic Identity Fellowship at the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople. Phil lives in Adams Point, Oakland, California.