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Bipartisan Bill will Safeguard Federal Research from Foreign Espionage

Today, U.S. Representative Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) joined with Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK), Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) to announce the introduction of the bipartisan H.R. 3038, the Securing American Science and Technology Act of 2019 (SASTA) to address academic espionage at our institutions of higher education. The bill promotes standardization of federal agency approaches to academic espionage while maintaining collaboration and a welcoming environment for foreign talent at our institutions of higher education.

SASTA requires the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to establish an interagency working group of science, intelligence, and security agencies under the existing authority granted to the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). The group would evaluate existing mechanisms of control of federally funded research and develop a policy framework to address the security needs of agencies and federal grant recipients. SASTA also establishes a roundtable, convened by the National Academies, to facilitate an ongoing dialogue among federal science and security agencies and academia on these topics and to share best practices through public reports.

“Universities throughout the state of Ohio are on the cutting edge of innovation and advancement. This makes our research programs a target for nations like China, who we know are actively stealing our intellectual property and world renowned research and development. It is vital for our national security and economic future that we do a better job preventing this form of foreign hostility and promote the great work being done at universities across our nation. This bill takes the first step towards accomplishing that,” said Representative Anthony Gonzalez.

“There are serious and legitimate concerns about academic espionage at our universities,” said Representative Mikie Sherrill, Chairwoman of the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight. “That’s why we’re proposing a unified approach to protect research without creating overlapping or contradictory federal requirements. We have to get this right. We must protect our innovation and research while maintaining the international engagement and demonstrated value foreign students bring to our institutions of higher learning, including our universities in New Jersey.”

“For more than a year, our Committee has been investigating the theft of proprietary technology and scientific discoveries from American universities,” said Ranking Member Frank Lucas. “We’ve worked with law enforcement, counterintelligence, and academic institutions to consider how best to protect American research without preventing a collaborative approach to innovation. Our universities receive billions in federal funding to support important research and we have a responsibility to protect this taxpayer investment. This bill is the first step towards safeguarding our breakthrough discoveries and technologies and I’m proud to be a cosponsor.”

“The United States has long benefited from the skills and knowledge of foreign-born scientists and engineers studying and carrying out their research in our U.S. universities,” said Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, Chairwoman of the Science Committee. “We need only look at the statistics of American Nobel Prize winners to understand the critical importance of welcoming the best and brightest from wherever they hail. Since the first year of the awards, more than one-third of the American Nobel Prize winners in physics, chemistry, and medicine have been immigrants. However, several areas of academic research have increasingly significant implications for our economic and national security, making them vulnerable to theft, cyberattacks, and espionage by foreign actors. We must take these risks seriously, and we must figure out how to do so without stifling the open exchange of ideas that fuels discovery and innovation. That is a challenging task, but this bill establishes the collaborations and agenda to make that possible.”

“Intellectual property theft, cybersecurity breaches and other forms of espionage occurring at colleges and universities represent a threat to America’s innovative edge,” said Congressman Jim Langevin, chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities. “I share the concerns of academic institutions about foreign actors targeting them, and it is clear that they need improved assistance from the federal government in order to better defend their research and intellectual property. I’m grateful to Congresswoman Sherrill for tackling such an important issue early in her term by introducing the bipartisan Securing American Science and Technology Act. By better coordinating federal efforts to protect our universities, it will give schools tools to defend themselves while also protecting the important academic and cultural contributions that international students bring to our country.”

“Our national and economic security is being undermined by industrial espionage, cyber theft on a massive scale, and malign foreign influence on our campuses. While strategic competition is inevitable, we cannot continue to accept the status quo and allow our world-class Universities to be exploited,” said Representative Elise Stefanik, Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities. “This bill is a first step in tackling this growing threat, and I look forward to working with Congress and the White House to ensure additional protections are in place for our most critical national security technologies.”

“Ohio State greatly appreciates Rep. Gonzalez’s leadership on this important national security initiative to coordinate across federal agencies. We urge Congress to enact this common-sense measure to ensure that the United States remain a leader in innovation and economic competitiveness,” said Dr. Morley Stone, Senior Vice President for Research at The Ohio State University.

“The government-university partnership is integral to our nation’s ability to lead in science and innovation,” said Suzanne Rivera, Vice President for Research and Technology Management at Case Western Reserve University. “These proposed measures to improve coordination between the academic and intelligence communities are welcome and will help to promote the integrity of our national research enterprise.”

The following organizations have endorsed the legislation: The Ohio State University; Association of Public and Land-grant Universities; American Council on Education; Association of American Medical Colleges; Association of American Universities; Aerospace Industries Association; American Association for the Advancement of Science; Council on Governmental Relations; Brown University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; New York University; Princeton University; Rutgers University-The State University of New Jersey.

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