Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., have introduced a bill that aims to better coordinate Federal research and development (R&D) efforts on distributed ledger technologies (DLT), including the more commonly known blockchain technology.

The National R&D Strategy for Distributed Ledger Technology Act is the latest government effort to advance blockchain technology, which is the underlying technology that enables cryptocurrencies and other digital assets.

“Distributed ledger technology has the potential to make commerce more secure and transparent, as well as reduce marketplace friction,” Sen. Lummis said in a press release.

“Distributed ledgers have a wide range of applications from supply chain management to healthcare records,” she added. “In Wyoming, ranchers can track their products all the way to market using distributed ledger technology. We need to make sure existing regulations do not stand in the way of innovation.”

Sen. Lummis is also expected to soon introduce legislation with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.,  that would create a broad-based regulatory framework for the cryptocurrency industry.

In addition to enabling cryptocurrencies, DLT use-cases include supply chain transparency, digital identity, and information management. DLT applications can help Americans improve the ownership of their data, improve the quality and security of online services, and streamline regulatory compliance for businesses, the senators said.

The new Senate bill would direct the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), in coordination with other agencies, to develop a national R&D strategy for DLT and its practical applications. It would also direct the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue supporting DLT research.

Additionally, the bill instructs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to “engage in an applied research project to study and demonstrate the potential benefits of DLT,” according to the press release.

“It is imperative that we maintain global leadership in the development of emerging technologies, including distributed ledger technology,” Sen. Wicker said. “This bill would launch pivotal exploration into this promising and novel architecture for computing and data storage. I am optimistic that our legislation will spur practical innovations that go far beyond financial applications.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.