Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) has introduced legislation to stop the theft of sensitive American research from Chinese, Russian, and Iranian intelligence services.
The Protect Our Universities Act of 2019, introduced in the Senate on Tuesday, proposes to initiate thorough background screenings of research students from these countries who wish to participate in “sensitive research projects.”
The bill also seeks an amendment to the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and prohibits the use of technologies developed by companies like Huawei, ZTE, Kaspersky, and others.
“For too long, these countries have sent students to our universities to collect sensitive research that they can later use to develop capabilities that threaten our national security,” Hawley said in a statement. “This bill takes much-needed steps to ensure our research stays out of the hands of foreign adversaries who are proactively rooting for our failure. Our scientific exchange must not be exploited to advance the destructive agendas of Beijing, Moscow, or Tehran.”
The bill also seeks to establish a DHS-led interagency task force to identify research projects that are in progress at various universities which address “sensitive research topics,” as defined by the task force member agencies.
“National security and Intelligence Community leaders have continually warned us about students from adversarial nations infiltrating our universities to engage in federally-funded foundational research,” Congressman Jim Banks (R-IN), who introduced similar legislation in the House, said in a statement. “We cannot afford to ignore this threat any longer.”
Last month a similar bill was introduced by five Republicans to prohibit students from receiving student or research visas to the U.S. who are employed or sponsored by institutions linked with the Chinese military.
The legislation would require the Trump administration to develop a list of scientific and engineering institutions affiliated with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to ensure that U.S. universities are not sharing sensitive information with China’s military.
Earlier this year, the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations also compiled a report on China-funded Confucius Institutes. The report found that the Chinese government has spent more than $150 million on the institutes over the last decade to limit criticism of its political policies in America.