Event Highlights: Bloomberg Policy Blueprint – October 19, 2021

Event Highlights

Bloomberg Policy Blueprint

By Bloomberg Live

Covid-19, the greatest obstacle humanity has collectively faced since World War II, has forced governments to react in ways that haven’t always led to the best or most effective policies. Yet several breakthrough pharmaceutical partnerships that led to the development and distribution of multiple vaccines, showed collaboration between the public and private sector is crucial to rebuild confidence in government capacity and effect change in our world. That confidence will be necessary if our government leaders are to address the multitude of challenges we face, like the need for better transparency, a strategy for countering misinformation and the will to take on complex problems like climate change, public health, and inequality. Policy Blueprint will convene government technology leaders, senior policymakers, and business executives to examine how to work together, be more agile, adaptive and solve big problems better to serve their citizenries.

Click here to view video of today’s event.

Speakers included:

  • Albert Bourla DVM, PH.D., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Pfizer
  • Victoria Cuming, Head of Global Policy, BloombergNEF
  • Deb Cupp, President, Microsoft US
  • Barbara Humpton, President and CEO, Siemens USA
  • Clare Martorana, Federal Chief Information Officer, Office of Management and Budget, Executive Office of the President
  • Robert Sanchez, Chairman and CEO, Ryder System, Inc.
  • David Turk, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy
  • Brandon Wales, Executive Director, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

Bloomberg Moderators:

  • Annmarie Hordern, Washington Correspondent for Bloomberg Television and Radio
  • Rebecca Kern, Bloomberg Government Technology Reporter
  • Josh Wingrove, White House Correspondent, Bloomberg News
  • Lisa Abramowicz, Host Bloomberg Television and  Bloomberg Radio
  • David Westin, Anchor, Bloomberg Television
  • Joe Deaux, Commodities Reporter, Bloomberg News


Event Highlights:

Transitioning to a Clean Energy Economy

David Turk, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, said President Biden will not go empty-handed to the upcoming COP26 UN climate change conference, despite initiatives stalled in Congress, because much has already been done amassing an “amazing amount of credibility.” And efforts continue to ramp up. That includes $8 billion spent annually on key technologies in the transition to clean energy and emissions reduction. “It really is an historic window to get these kinds of authorities, these kinds of funding streams,” Turk, who worked for Biden when he was a senator, said of the surge forward and his agency’s proactive support for the goals. Getting China and India on board in more impactful ways will be essential. China is the source of about 30 percent of global emissions, according to Turk, who added there’s no doubt the country needs to step up and do more.

Among the DOE projects is Earthshots, aimed at making clean hydrogen a cost-effective path to net-zero carbon technologies, and the Clean Energy Payment Program that pays electric companies who do, and penalizes those who don’t sell carbon-free energy. In DOE’s 17 National Laboratories, intense work is being done and solutions are already on the market for protection against cyberattacks on power grids and oil pipelines.

While the EPA is expected to release new methane and other energy regulations within a few weeks, soaring prices at gas pumps and for winter heating fuels, sparked by Covid-19’s major market swings, are an immediate concern being addressed by the DOE. “We’re having conversations across the world. No options are off the table,” Turk said of the effort to smooth out the pandemic transition.

In the next session, Deb Cupp, President of Microsoft US, spoke about Working Together to Close the Digital Skills Gap. The biggest challenge right now is an alarming shortage of 300,000 cyber security professionals in the U.S., at a very vulnerable time. It’s part of an estimated 149 million new technology jobs that could be absorbed by industries around the world by 2025. “This challenge is also a huge opportunity,” Cupp said, “for us to think about how we reshape and rethink education, from K12, through college, to prepare our students for jobs in the age of digital transformation. At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”

It comes down to employability, and programs like Microsoft’s Global Skills Initiative, aimed at giving 25 million people worldwide the chance to learn digital skills needed in a Covid-19 economy. Eight million have taken advantage of free training, so far.

Securing America: The Path Forward

That requires robust security plans for government and the private sector. Brandon Wales, Executive Director for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), said bad habits are what make us vulnerable. The SolarWinds and Colonial Pipeline cyber attacks revealed weaknesses, including a lack of early detection and not having a plan in place to deal with risk. Greatly-enhanced online security can come from simple things, such as individuals employing multifactor identification to a major operational collaboration by which we can “take action at scale that no company or government agency can take individually.” Launched in August, the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative (JCDC) is already finding success, with federal agencies working with major cloud providers, internet providers, cybersecurity companies and IT equipment manufacturers, including Microsoft, Google, Amazon and AT&T. “We now have the ability to protect the cyber ecosystem in a way that no one can do individually and we’re really seeing that paying dividends,” Wales said. The joint effort produced a just-released product on black matter ransomware developed using information provided by businesses.

Wales supports proposed legislation for mandatory reporting of incidents that would beef up the response cycle, provided it includes; reporting within 24 hours, including to CISA, a broad definition of a reportable incident and a strong enforcement mechanism for the mandates.

Government’s Digital Transformation

A massive increase in remote workers and “digital natives,” those who grew up with and have a sophisticated understanding of the internet cause an ever-rising risk to cyber security, said Clare Martorana, Federal Chief Information Officer, Office of Management and Budget, Executive Office of the President. IT modernization needs to start with bolstering defenses. She noted that in September, CISA released a plan –  the Cloud Security Technical Reference Architecture and Zero Trust Maturity Model – for public comment. The Technology Modernization Fund loan program was revamped in an effort to help the private sector get out of emergency mode. Continuous rounds of awards are being made. Requests have mounted to $2 billion.

In government, it comes down to great customer service, according to Martorana, who said Covid was the catalyst for change. As the masses applied for benefits, passports and grants, the difficulty of navigating federal websites became more apparent. Help needs to come quickly and will only happen with improvements that are being implemented now. “Trust is at a low point. We know that delivering great quality services actually improves people’s confidence in the government.”

Supply Chain Resilience: Making American Business More Competitive

Logistics means dealing with disruptions all the time, said Robert Sanchez, Chairman and CEO of Ryder System, Inc. Natural disasters and all sorts of bottlenecks slow down the movement of goods. That includes funds and information. With Covid-19 came an unprecedented sudden stop, Sanchez said, and the need to pivot in response to a new set of consumer demands. 

Ryder is entrenched in the supply chain, involved with nearly every industry in North America, with 250,000 vehicles leased or operated for companies and 10,000 of its own truck drivers. It is feeling as strongly as any company the pinch of the pandemic’s resulting labor shortage, and everyone is feeling the effects of a marked decrease in drivers. According to Sanchez, it’s been an issue for the past decade as drivers hit retirement and fewer people aspired to the work. The road to a fix is a long one, Sanchez stated, “We need about 60,000 additional commercial drivers in the U.S., today. Over the next 10 years, we have to hire over a million drivers to offset the retirement that we’re seeing,”

Solutions will come by way of “throwing resources at it.” More drivers, better pay, third shifts to avoid bottlenecks, easing restrictions and immigration reform. Sanchez said in many places drivers cannot be recruited right out of high school because they can’t go over state lines until they are 21. Qualified drivers from other countries should be allowed to come here and help ease the shortage. Driverless trucks may be added within the next five years but won’t replace final mile delivery.

Look for longer delivery delays and empty shelves going into the holiday season, because it’s going to get worse before it gets better, Sanchez said. Long term, he predicts shortened supply chains, with manufactures seeking to be closer to their customers.

A New Era of Public-Private Sector Collaboration

A rapid response to the need for the Covid-19 vaccine was possible because of an existing, “vibrant” life sciences center that was ready to step in, said Albert Bourla DVM, PH.D., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Pfizer. Innovation and the ongoing collaboration with the government is what saved us, he said. 

His informed predictions are that mix-and-match will work for vaccine boosters and that life will eventually return to normal. The mRNA breakthrough and the pandemic has scaled up interest in scientific study that could hasten advances such as cancer vaccines. Manufacture of the Covid-19 vaccine highlighted the importance of protecting the supply chain. Dr. Bourla noted that his company’s vaccine has 186 components from 19 countries, which presented a real struggle. He went on to talk about the need to control prescription pricing and Pfizer’s willingness to participate in a way that is “more than their fair part.”

Next, Victoria Cuming, Head of Global Policy, BloombergNEF, a strategic research provider of Bloomberg, offered a look at the upcoming COP26, with insights about the transition to clean energy, government emission targets and climate finance. Ambition, Cuming said, is the hot topic for Glasgow. Since a 2018 report on climate change and the goal for zero emissions by 2050 was released, there has been a significant increase in regions and countries with net zero targets. “BloombergNEF is realistically optimistic that parties will reach some kind of a deal where they reference global net zero, in Glasgow, ” Cuming said, “and potentially, also, what seems to be the catchphrase for the conference, ‘To keep 1.5 degrees alive’.”

Modernizing America

“Smart infrastructure,”  is a need that ranks right up there with concrete and steel, according to Barbara Humpton, CEO, Siemens USA, a technology company with workers in every state. Humpton echoed predictions of a trend away from labor costs driving factory locations. The semiconductor shortage is the anecdote, she said.

Legislation could jumpstart infrastructure that supports climate initiatives, such as remedying the lack of electric vehicle charging infrastructure and standardized charging methods. “Hands down, into the grid,” Humpton said of where infrastructure money should go first. As we move into the digital future and the rebuilding of America, there is often-heard concern that “robots are coming to take our jobs.” Humpton said nothing could be further from the truth and offered intriguing foresight. “If we’re able to automate repetitive, dangerous tasks, frankly, boring tasks, we are able to take those things off of the plates of people. And, by the way, many of those tasks are the reason why we had off-shoring.” Factories would be cleaner, with a smaller footprint, facilitating localization, and humans will be able to contribute more of their creativity. “My prediction is it will only be a few years from now when the main jobs we have in a factory are going to look more like playing a video game.”

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