By Sebastian Moss, Datacenter Dynamics
January 15, 2018
A new bill has been introduced to the US Congress that calls for a ban on US government agencies using contractors that rely on equipment from Chinese telecoms manufacturers Huawei and ZTE.
The “Defending U.S. Government Communications Act,” sponsored by Republican Michael Conaway, cites national security concerns and the companies’ alleged ties to the Chinese state and military forces as reasons for the move.
Both companies have previously denied such allegations, but have already been banned from directly bidding for US government contracts.
For the bill to become law, it must first be approved by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, pass a vote in the House and Senate and then be approved by the President.
“The head of an agency may not procure or obtain, may not extend or renew a contract to procure or obtain, and may not enter into a contract (or extend or renew a contract) with an entity that uses any equipment, system, or service that uses covered telecommunications equipment or services as a substantial or essential component of any system, or as critical technology as part of any system,” the proposed bill states.
‘Covered telecommunications equipment or services’ means anything from Huawei Technologies Company or ZTE Corporation, or any subsidiaries or affiliates. It also includes telecommunications equipment or services produced or provided by a company that the head of the relevant agency “reasonably believes to be an entity owned or controlled by, or otherwise connected to, the government of a covered foreign country.”
A covered foreign country is defined as the People’s Republic of China.
The bill cites some precedent for its accusations:
- A 2011 DoD report claiming the Chinese defense industry has integrated with the tech industry, with the People’s Liberation Army particularly close to Huawei
- A 2011 United States China Commission report claiming that Chinese telco companies “are directly subject to direction by the Chinese Communist Party, to include support for PRC state policies and goals”
- Comments in 2013 by General Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and NSA, who claimed that Huawei had shared with the Chinese state intimate and extensive knowledge of foreign telecommunications systems it is involved with
- A 2015 counterintelligence note by the FBI that said that Huawei’s growth could give the Chinese intelligence services access to US business communications, adding “China makes no secret that its cyber warfare strategy is predicated on controlling global communications network infrastructure”
- ZTE’s guilty plea for shipping US-origin items to Iran, and The Treasury Department’s subpoena into whether Huawei violated trade restrictions on Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria
The bill relies on information that is classified, with no publicly available information corroborating a link between the companies and the Chinese military.