Biden’s Executive Order Calls for ‘Highest Urgency’ on CBDC Research and Development

The president has called on the Treasury Department to spearhead a series of reports looking into CBDC technologies and how to implement them – ”if doing so is deemed to be in the national interest.”

AccessTimeIconMar 10, 2022 at 3:38 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 5:12 p.m. UTC

U.S. President Joe Biden called for an urgent, government-wide focus to be placed on the research and development of a potential central bank digital currency (CBDC) in his executive order signed Wednesday.

The order calls for a full-scale assessment of the potential benefits and risks of a CBDC, both for consumers and investors as well as the broader U.S. financial system. Biden has ordered the Treasury Department to spearhead the research and report, with input from other federal agencies, including the Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of Homeland Security.

The assessment is also supposed to determine whether the implementation of a CBDC would be in “the national interest.”

There are several organizations already researching and piloting CBDCs in the United States, including the Boston Fed, which has partnered with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on CBDC technology, and the Digital Dollar Project, a public-private partnership founded by consulting firm Accenture and Chris Giancarlo, the former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

However, U.S. efforts have moved noticeably slower than those in other countries, including China, whose digital yuan is already being piloted in cities across the country. The order suggests that Biden – who noted that “over 100 countries are exploring or piloting” CBDCs – does not want the U.S. to get left behind.

David Treat, global blockchain lead at Accenture, told CoinDesk that the government will need to work with industry leaders if it wants to get things done right – and quickly.

“The executive order catalyzes the important work to pilot, test and advance the development of a CBDC,” Treat said. “We are excited about the pilot programs that the Digital Dollar Project will launch with our multi-stakeholder community.”

The Digital Dollar Project has promised five pilot projects, which are planned to kick off in the coming months, to evaluate whether and how a U.S. CBDC would benefit people who are unbanked (or underbanked) – a key point stressed in Biden’s executive order.

But though Biden’s attempt to speed up CBDC research and development might make things faster, it is unlikely to make things fast.

“The work to build private-public partnership for digital asset experimentation takes time,” Jennifer Lassiter, executive director of the Digital Dollar Project, told CoinDesk.

So, too, do government reports.

Though Biden gave the Treasury Department six months to get its research together, experts told CoinDesk it wouldn’t be surprising if that deadline was extended.


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Cheyenne Ligon

Cheyenne Ligon is a CoinDesk news reporter with a focus on crypto regulation and policy. She has no significant crypto holdings.