$700 billion defense bill passed by the US Senate
includes a mandate for a blockchain study to be conducted by the Department of Defense. Yesterday, the US Senate passed a massive defense spending package that provides hundreds of billions of dollars to the US military. Public records show that an amendment included in that bill, proposed by Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, would "require a report on cyber applications of blockchain technology" if signed into law. According to the official Congressional website, the amendment was agreed to by unanimous consent ahead of the defense bill's final vote. The research effort, according to the amendment's text is
"…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, additional materials indicate, is expected to be delivered six months after the defense bill is signed into law. But more steps remain before the study's mandate becomes law, however. The House of Representatives – the lower chamber of the US Congress – passed a similar bill in July, and now the two bodies have to hammer out a reconciled version and pass it.
Regardless of its recent crackdown on bitcoin exchanges
and initial coin offerings (ICOs), China's government still appears committed to the potential of blockchain in other areas. According to a report by Caixin, the country's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has launched a research facility called the Trusted Blockchain Open Lab in order to support the ongoing development of the technology in China. To be operated by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT), the blockchain lab will conduct research in the area of blockchain, as well as creating a platform for specialists to share their knowledge around the technology.
The news comes amid an evolving conversation about blockchain domestically.
As reported by the China Economic Review, Di Gang, vice director of the Digital Currency Research Institute within the People's Bank of China, warned at an event yesterday that technical blockchain specialists were lacking in comparison to those using the technology for economic reasons. "There have been many blockchain conferences where the number of business personnel exceeds technical personnel," the official said.
Following China's September 4 ban on initial coin offerings (ICOs) and later closure of several cryptocurrency exchanges, Reuters reports that Sun Guofeng, director general of the Digital Currency Research Institute, said that the ruling was "necessary and timely" to halt criminal activity in the sector. However, he stated blockchain itself is a "good technology," adding that "an ICO is not the only way through which one can carry out research into it."
He continued by promising the ban would not have a negative impact on the broader blockchain industry. Various tech giants in China are also currently working with the technology, including Tencent, who announced a blockchain research partnership with multinational tech corporation Intel at a conference earlier this month. Additionally, payment giant China UnionPay recently filed a patent for blockchain based ATM network, while the Midea Group, an electrical appliances manufacturer, is seeking to patent a method for mining bitcoin with household items.