(WASHINGTON) – Rep. Jim Banks’ amendment to the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) designed to protect sensitive national security research at universities passed with bipartisan support last night.
The amendment builds off an amendment Rep. Banks introduced and was included in last year’s NDAA that directs the Department of Defense (DoD) to collect background information on anyone participating in DoD-funded research. The amendment promotes transparency and ensures research funded by the Department of Defense is protected from espionage.
While last year’s language only directed the DoD to monitor those working on applied research, the amendment that passed today would expand and direct the DoD to also monitor those working on basic research, such as quantum research and capabilities to disarm Unmanned Aerial Systems.
Rep. Banks stated, “We know that the Chinese government pressures individuals working on sensitive projects to become information collectors for the communist government and military in Beijing. But right now, it is difficult for the Department to accurately assess what vulnerabilities exist within these DoD research programs if they aren’t aware of who is conducting the research.”
Banks continued, “The Department knows more about the tourists that visit the Pentagon or those who work at the Starbucks on any military installation than they do about the participants of this basic research.”
Rep. Banks has been working since 2018 to safeguard university research from foreign espionage. In March 2019, he introduced H.R. 1678, the Protect Our Universities Act, which would require students from adversarial nations like China or Russia to apply for a waiver granted by the Director of National Intelligence to work on sensitive research projects funded by the Department of Defense, Intelligence Community, and Department of Energy. The Act would also would prohibit the technology developed by bad actors like Huawei, ZTE, Kaspersky, and others, from being used in federally-funded sensitive research projects.