The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on May 25 approved a bill that would direct the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to develop a national strategy for the research and development (R&D) of distributed ledger technologies.

The bill – titled National R&D Strategy for Distributed Ledger Technology Act of 2022 (S.4109) – focuses on technologies that enable distributed ledgers. The bill includes $1 million to develop the strategy along with authorization for competitive awards, the potential for applied research, and authorization for a study by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST).

Distributed ledger technologies are regarded by industry experts as at least somewhat related to blockchain technologies, with the distinction that blockchain can be a method of implementing a distributed ledger, but not all distributed ledgers necessarily employ blockchains.

After much debate in during a mark-up session on a separate bill that focuses on how the Federal Trade Commission ensures there is transparency in the fuel market, the committee advanced the distributed ledger tech bill by voice vote.

The bill defines distributed ledgers as ledgers that are shared across a distributed set of devices or processes that: “participate in a network and store a complete or partial replica of the ledger;” syncs between the set of devices or processes; and “has data appended to it by following the ledger’s specified consensus mechanism.”

By definition, the ledgers may be public or private and may be permissionless or require users to have certain permissions to access them. The bill directs the strategy to focus on technologies that enable applications of public and permissionless distributed ledgers.

The bill’s language authorizes appropriations for fiscal years 2022 and 2023 to allow OSTP to create the strategy.

The bill also gives the Director of the National Science Foundation authority to award to higher education institutions or nonprofit groups through a competitive process projects focusing on distributed ledger technology.

Additionally, the bill authorizes the Director of NIST to carry out applied research on distributed ledger technology, subject to the availability of appropriations. NIST will also be required to submit a report on distributed ledger tech a year after the bill’s passage, and then give briefings to the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.