Rob’s Rundown: Week of November 18 – November 22, 2019

November 22, 2019 | Rob's Rundown

This week, Senator Portman Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), unveiled a new bipartisan report titled Threats to the U.S. Research Enterprise: China’s Talent Recruitment Plans.  The report documents how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s economy and military over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it. Portman delivered opening remarks at a bipartisan hearing entitled “Securing the U.S. Research Enterprise from China’s Talent Recruitment Plans.” During the hearing, Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) John Brown confirmed that the FBI should have taken more rapid and comprehensive action in addressing China’s strategic plan to acquire knowledge and intellectual property from researchers, scientists, and the U.S. private sector through their talent recruitment programs.  A number of the nation’s media outlets have highlighted the new bipartisan report, with the Wall Street Journal editorial board calling for more transparency in regard to Chinese talent recruitment programs in the United States. On the Senate floor, Portman discussed the findings of the report and insisted that the U.S. must do more to stop theft of taxpayer-funded research & intellectual property.

In addition, Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor urging his Senate colleagues to support his bipartisan legislation to rename NASA’s Plum Brook Station, the agency’s test facility in Sandusky, Ohio, after Neil Armstrong. Last week the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee approved the legislation that Portman and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced the legislation in September. Plum Brook is part of the NASA Glenn Research Center based in Cleveland, Ohio. It houses unique world-class facilities that conduct critical and innovative ground tests for the international aerospace community. The legislation now awaits action on the Senate floor.

Finally, this week the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved Portman’s bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act, legislation that would address the nearly $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog at the National Park Service (NPS). The bill, which has been praised by key stakeholders, would establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” from existing unobligated revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development to fund deferred maintenance projects at NPS sites across the country. 

For a more detailed look at Senator Portman’s week, please see the following: 

Monday, November 18, 2019

Toledo Blade Editorial Board Endorses Portman’s Deepfake Report Act

In an editorial titled “Deep Six Deep Fakes,” the Toledo Blade editorial board called for passage of Senator Portman’s Deepfake Report Act, bipartisan legislation directing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to conduct an annual study of deepfakes and other types of similar content. Deepfakes are hyper-realistic, digital manipulations of real content that depict events that did not actually occur. The legislation requires DHS to assess the technology used to generate deepfakes, the uses of deepfakes by foreign and domestic entities, and available countermeasures to deepfakes, to help policymakers and the public better understand the threats deepfakes pose to our national security and election security. The Deepfake Report Act passed the Senate in October and now awaits action from the House of Representatives.  

The Toledo Blade editorial states: “So-called “deep-fake” videos threaten to undermine our trust in genuine news and spread misinformation. That’s why the Deepfake Report Act, co-sponsored by Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, is an important first step in protecting the public’s capacity to trust what it sees online… The House of Representatives should follow the Senate’s lead and embrace the bipartisan [Deepfake Report Act], and President Trump should sign it.”

Excerpts of the editorial can be found here and the full editorial can be found here.

In Cincinnati, Portman Meets with Members of the Ohio Alliance of Recovery Providers

Portman met with members of the Ohio Alliance of Recovery Providers (OARP) and discussed efforts to combat the drug crisis. The OARP is an organization made up of thirty-four addiction treatment providers, working to increase access to treatment and develop a recovery-oriented system of care for all Ohioans.

“I had a productive meeting today with members from the Ohio Alliance of Recovery Providers to discuss how the drug epidemic is impacting communities in Southwest Ohio,” said Portman. “This organization is a wonderful example of how community leaders can work together to find innovative ways to help their citizens and their community. I will continue to work to increase access to care for Ohioans battling addiction and to ensure that providers aren’t penalized for offering services like transportation or childcare for individuals receiving treatment.”  

Portman, Carper Bipartisan Report Reveals Lack of Federal Response to China’s Talent Recruitment Plans

Senators Portman and Tom Carper (D-DE), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), unveiled a new bipartisan report titled Threats to the U.S. Research Enterprise: China’s Talent Recruitment Plans.  The report documents how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s economy and military over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it.  The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations will hold a hearing on the report tomorrow, November 19, 2019, at 10:00 am. A livestream of the hearing will be available here.

Starting in the late 1990s through its “talent recruitment plans,” China began recruiting U.S.-based scientists and researchers and incentivizing them to transfer U.S. taxpayer-funded intellectual property to China for China’s own economic and military gain.  China pledged to spend 15 percent of its GDP, more than $2 trillion, on improving human resources from 2008 to 2020. The Subcommittee investigated China’s most prominent talent recruitment plan:  The Thousand Talents Plan (TTP).  Launched in 2008, TTP incentivizes individuals engaged in research and development to transmit the knowledge and research they gain in the United States to China in exchange for salaries, research funding, lab space, and other incentives. 

Over the course of an eight-month investigation, the Subcommittee examined seven federal agencies’ efforts to combat the theft of American taxpayer-funded research and technology through Chinese talent recruitment programs.  While China has a strategic plan to acquire knowledge and intellectual property from researchers, scientists, and the U.S. private sector, the U.S. government does not have a comprehensive strategy to combat this threat.  The seven federal agencies reviewed by PSI include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, State Department, Department of Commerce, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“This report reveals that American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s economy and military over the last two decades by detailing not only the lengths and expense China has gone to in order to steal American intellectual property, but also the shocking fact that our own federal agencies have done little to stop their actions despite being aware of China’s talent plans,” said Senator Portman. “These talent plans are a win-win for China. China wins twice. First, the American taxpayer funds China’s research and development. Second, China uses that research to improve its economic and military status. This is unacceptable and I look forward to working with Senator Carper on bipartisan legislation to end this abuse of American research, intellectual property, and taxpayer money.”

Portman, Bipartisan Colleagues Introduce Bill to End Cosmetics Animal Testing

Senators Portman, Martha McSally (R-AZ), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today introduced the Humane Cosmetics Actwhich would phase out the sale of cosmetic products developed using animal testing and make it unlawful to conduct cosmetic animal testing in the U.S. with limited exceptions.

“I’m proud to support this bipartisan legislation as it requires cosmetic companies to verify the safety of their products without the use of animal testing. While nearly 600 cosmetic companies already use alternatives to animal testing, this legislation would build on that progress by expediting the consideration of other reliable testing alternatives. I urge my Senate colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation so that our cosmetics industry can continue to create safe products for consumers without testing on animals,” said Portman.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Committee Approves Portman, Warner, Alexander, King Legislation to Address National Park Service Maintenance Backlog

Senators Portman, Mark Warner (D-VA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Angus King (I-ME) announced the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has approved their bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act, legislation that would address the nearly $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog at the National Park Service (NPS). The bill, which has been praised by key stakeholders, would establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” from existing unobligated revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development to fund deferred maintenance projects at NPS sites across the country.  Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA) have led similar legislation in the House of Representatives. The legislation now awaits action on the Senate floor. 

“For more than a century, the National Park Service has been inspiring Americans to explore the natural beauty of our country,” Portman said. “But in order to keep that work going, we need to ensure that they have the necessary resources to maintain our national parks. This bill will create the Legacy Restoration Fund to provide the National Park Service with funds for deferred maintenance projects like the more than $100 million in maintenance backlog at Ohio’s eight national parks. I’d like to thank Senators Warner, Alexander, and King as well as the cosponsors of his legislation for their leadership on this issue and I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to get this legislation signed into law so that the National Park Service can continue preserving American treasures.”

Portman Opening Statement at Bipartisan PSI Oversight Hearing Highlights Lack of Federal Response to China’s Talent Recruitment Programs

Portman, Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), delivered opening remarks at a bipartisan hearing entitled “Securing the U.S. Research Enterprise from China’s Talent Recruitment Plans.” In his remarks, he discussed PSI’s new bipartisan report that documents how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s economy and military over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it.

Starting in the late 1990s through its “talent recruitment plans,” China began recruiting U.S.-based scientists and researchers and incentivizing them to transfer U.S. taxpayer-funded intellectual property to China for China’s own economic and military gain.  China pledged to spend 15 percent of its GDP, more than $2 trillion, on improving human resources from 2008 to 2020. The Subcommittee investigated China’s most prominent talent recruitment plan:  The Thousand Talents Plan (TTP).  Launched in 2008, TTP incentivizes individuals engaged in research and development to transmit the knowledge and research they gain in the United States to China in exchange for salaries, research funding, lab space, and other incentives. 

Over the course of an eight-month investigation, the Subcommittee examined seven federal agencies’ efforts to combat the theft of American taxpayer-funded research and technology through Chinese talent recruitment programs.  While China has a strategic plan to acquire knowledge and intellectual property from researchers, scientists, and the U.S. private sector, the U.S. government does not have a comprehensive strategy to combat this threat.  The seven federal agencies reviewed by PSI include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, State Department, Department of Commerce, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.  

A transcript of his remarks is here and a video can be found here.

In Stunning Admission, FBI Says It Should Have Addressed Chinese Talent Recruitment Programs Sooner

During a Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) bipartisan hearing entitled “Securing the U.S. Research Enterprise from China’s Talent Recruitment Plans” chaired by Portman, Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) John Brown confirmed that the FBI should have taken more rapid and comprehensive action in addressing China’s strategic plan to acquire knowledge and intellectual property from researchers, scientists, and the U.S. private sector through their talent recruitment programs. The hearing focused on the new bipartisan report which documents how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s economy and military over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it. Assistant Director Brown stated: 

“…we always seek new ways to improve our effectiveness. With our present-day knowledge of the threat from Chinese talent plans, we wish we had taken more rapid and comprehensive action in the past, and the time to make up for that is now. We appreciate the conclusions of your report and we welcome your questions…”

His full testimony as prepared for delivery can be found here and video can be found here.

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Praises Portman's PSI Report on China's Talent Recruitment Programs

Portman held a bipartisan hearing entitled “Securing the U.S. Research Enterprise from China’s Talent Recruitment Plans”. The hearing focused on the new bipartisan report which documents how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s economy and military over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it. In response to the report, Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a statement praising Portman’s efforts to bring light to this issue and committing to working towards a solution at the federal level. 

“The report from HSGAC’s subcommittee on PSI and today’s hearing contributes to the important work the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has been leading through our Joint Committee on Research Environments,” said Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “Research must be done ethically and without foreign government influence. I’d like to thank Sen. Rob Portman for his great work in elevating this issue and I look forward to shaping a solution that will ensure research integrity for industry, academia, and federal agencies.”

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Following Portman’s PSI Report, Wall Street Journal Editorial Board Calls for Transparency in Chinese Talent Recruitment Programs

In an editorial titled “China’s Bid on American Science,” the Wall Street Journal editorial board called for more transparency in regard to Chinese talent recruitment programs in the United States. This is in response to Senator Portman’s new bipartisan report from the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which he chairs, that documents how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s economy and military over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it. Portman held a hearing yesterday to highlight these findings. At the hearing, an expert from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) admitted that the FBI should have taken more rapid and comprehensive action in addressing China’s strategic plan to acquire knowledge and intellectual property from researchers, scientists, and the U.S. private sector through their talent recruitment programs.

The Wall Street Journal editorial states: “That’s the disturbing finding of a report this week from Ohio Republican Rob Portman’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. It found the U.S. government is funding research for hundreds of scientists at American universities and labs who are effectively under contract to turn over their findings to China… There is a need for more transparency about Chinese subsidies for research in the U.S. and the demands China places on recipients. The challenge for U.S. law enforcement and the scientific community is to stop theft and deception without compromising the intellectual openness that has made the U.S. a scientific leader.”

Excerpts of the editorial can be found here and the full editorial can be found here.

At Hearing, Portman Secures Commitment from State Department Nominee to Address Visas for China’s Talent Recruitment Programs, Hold North Korea Accountable for Human Rights Violations, & Utilize Global

During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today, Portman secured a commitment from the nominee to be Deputy Secretary of State, Stephen Biegun, that, if confirmed, he would ensure that the State Department works to address the issue of China stealing intellectual property, specifically through their talent recruitment programs. Senator Portman’s new bipartisan report from the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which he chairs, documents how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s economy and military over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it.

Mr. Biegun also committed to hold North Korea accountable for their ongoing human rights violations. Portman has consistently maintained that we must never forget how the North Korean leader Kim Jung Un’s regime wrongfully imprisoned and horribly mistreated Ohio-native, Otto Warmbier. Finally, Mr. Biegun committed to fully utilizing the Global Engagement Center, which was tasked with leading U.S. government efforts to counter propaganda and disinformation from countries like Russia and China through legislation that Portman and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) wrote and successfully passed in 2016. 

Excerpts of his questioning can be found here and a video can be found here.

House Passes Portman, Udall Bill to Ensure Remaining Stamps to Promote Wildlife Conservation Are Sold

Senators Portman and Tom Udall (D-NM) announced the House of Representatives has passed their bipartisan Multinational Species Conservation Funds Semipostal Stamp Reauthorization Act, legislation which would require the U.S. Postal Service to sell the approximately 50 million remaining Saving Vanishing Species Stamps left in stock. Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Dianna Feinstein (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Gary Peters (D-MI) are original cosponsors of this legislation. The House companion bill is led by Representatives William Lacy Clay and Jeff Fortenberry. The legislation awaits action in the Senate. 

When the program began in 2011, the U.S. Postal Service printed 100 million stamps to help promote wildlife conservation and this legislation would require the U.S. Postal Service to sell the approximately 50 million remaining stamps left in stock.

“We owe it to our future generations to preserve our planet’s rich wildlife and natural resources so that they can continue to be enjoyed,” said Portman. “This successful stamp program has raised millions of dollars to fund conservation without any taxpayer money. I’m glad my colleagues in the House have passed this legislation and strongly urge my colleagues in the Senate to take up and pass this legislation to ensure that every last stamp is sold.”

Portman Statement on the Grassley/Alexander Multiemployer Pension Reform Plan Release

Senator Portman released the following statement upon the introduction of the new Multiemployer Pension Recapitalization and Reform Plan released by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN): 

“Today is a positive step forward in our efforts to reform the multiemployer pension system on behalf of workers, retirees, and employers.  I’d like to thank Chairmen Grassley and Alexander putting forward a constructive framework based on shared responsibility whereby the federal government, employers, workers and retirees all contribute to the solution.  This shared responsibility framework represents the type of comprehensive and permanent solution that will help protect earned pensions, save taxpayers money, prevent the insolvency of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), and alleviate pressure on our economy. Without proactive action, the PBGC will become insolvent by 2025, and at least 1.3 million pensions will be reduced by more than 90 percent, including over 60,000 in Ohio. In addition, the PBGC’s insolvency could force hundreds of Ohio small businesses to close.” 

“I believe this proposal can provide the foundation for a bipartisan solution, but it will require some changes.  As Chairman of the Subcommittee with jurisdiction over multiemployer pension reform, I look forward to learning about how this proposal can be improved in the coming weeks based on technical feedback from PBGC, CBO, and stakeholders in the multiemployer system.  I will continue to work with Senator Brown and all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to produce a truly impactful, lasting bipartisan solution.”

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Widespread Coverage Highlights Portman Report on Lack of Federal Response to China’s Talent Recruitment Plans

A number of the nation’s media outlets are highlighting Senator Portman’s new bipartisan report from the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which he chairs, that documents how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s economy and military over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it. Portman held a hearing on Tuesday to highlight these findings. At the hearing, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) admitted that the agency should have taken more rapid and comprehensive action in addressing China’s strategic plan to acquire knowledge and intellectual property from researchers, scientists, and the U.S. private sector through their talent recruitment programs. 

Excerpts of the coverage can be found here.

Portman Announces Support for Resolution Recognizing Armenian Genocide

Portman announced his support for the Senate resolution expressing that it is the policy of the United States to recognize and commemorate the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian Genocide refers to the horrific and systemic killing of Armenian Christians living in the Ottoman Empire from spring 1915 through 1923. There were approximately 1.5 million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire in 1915. At least 664,000 and possibly as many as 1.5 million died during the genocide, either in massacres and individual killings, or from ill treatment, exposure, and starvation. The historic evidence and eyewitness accounts of the systemic removal and murder of Armenian Christians stand in stark contrast to Turkey’s continual and resolute denial of the genocide. Similar legislation passed the House of Representatives in October by the overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 405-11. Portman released the following statement: 

“I am proud to join my Senate colleagues in cosponsoring this bipartisan resolution commemorating the memory of the Armenian genocide.  As the large, vibrant and patriotic Armenian community in Ohio will tell you, we must never forget the atrocities of the Armenian genocide. This resolution is not only about recognizing the problems and tragedies of the past, but it is also a reminder that we must stand strong and resist any and all persecution of minority populations.” 

On Senate Floor, Portman Urges Passage of Legislation to Rename NASA’s Plum Brook Station Test Facility After Neil Armstrong

On the Senate floor, Portman urged his Senate colleagues to support his bipartisan legislation to rename NASA’s Plum Brook Station, the agency’s test facility in Sandusky, Ohio, after Neil Armstrong. Last week the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee approved the legislation that Portman and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced the legislation in September. Plum Brook is part of the NASA Glenn Research Center based in Cleveland, Ohio. It houses unique world-class facilities that conduct critical and innovative ground tests for the international aerospace community. The legislation now awaits action on the Senate floor.

In July, in advance of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Senators Portman and Brown announced their intention to rename the facility. Prior to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Portman paid tribute to his friend, Ohio-native Neil Armstrong in a video, as well as on the Senate floor. In August, Portman accompanied NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a visit to NASA’s Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field in Cleveland and Plum Brook Station in Sandusky to view progress on the agency’s Artemis Program -- its multi-year plan to return American astronauts to the Moon and eventually send manned missions to Mars.

A transcript of his remarks is here and a video can be found here.

On Senate Floor, Portman Says U.S. Must Do More to Stop Theft of Taxpayer-Funded Research & Intellectual Property

On the Senate floor, Portman highlighted a new bipartisan report released by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which he chairs, that documents how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s economy and military over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it. Portman held a hearing on Tuesday to highlight these findings. At the hearing, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) admitted that the agency should have taken more rapid and comprehensive action in addressing China’s strategic plan to acquire knowledge and intellectual property from researchers, scientists, and the U.S. private sector through their talent recruitment programs.

A transcript of his remarks is here and a video can be found here.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Portman, Stabenow Introduce RECYCLE Act to Improve Recycling

Senators Portman and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced new legislation – S. 2941, the RECYCLE Act – to create a new federal grant program through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help educate households and consumers about their residential and community recycling programs. This legislation will help increase recycling rates and reduce contamination in the recycling stream. U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Todd Young (R-IN) are original cosponsors of this legislation.

Reports have indicated that consumer confusion on how to properly recycle is one of the top recycling challenges, and that education and outreach both increase participation in recycling and decrease contamination.

According to EPA, the recycling rate in the U.S. is 35.2 percent and $9 billion worth of recyclable materials are thrown away each year, which presents a big opportunity to improve our nation’s recycling systems. In addition, recycling offers numerous environmental and economic benefits, including diverting materials from landfills, using less energy to reprocess recycled material - which reduces emissions - and creating jobs. EPA’s 2016 Recycling Economic Information (REI) Report found that recycling supports more than 757,000 jobs and $6.7 billion annually in tax revenues.

“Education and outreach is a key pillar to improving recycling rates and reducing contamination in our recycling stream,” said Senator Portman. “Reports have indicated that one-third of materials that households put into their recycling bins end up in landfills and are not actually recycled. This is in part because there is confusion about what can actually be recycled, which leads to contamination of materials that could otherwise be recycled but instead are landfilled. Education is a key component in both increasing the amount of material that is being recycled and ensuring that the material being put into community and residential recycling programs is actually being recycled. I am pleased to be introducing the RECYCLE Act with Senator Stabenow today, and look forward to working with my colleagues to get it across the finish line.”

SOCIAL MEDIA

 

China’s Bid on American Science

It’s well-known by now that American companies doing business in China often have their technology stolen through mandatory joint-venture agreements with Chinese firms. That’s one cause in the Trump Administration’s trade war. But China’s campaign of research and intellectual-property theft against the U.S. is also being conducted by American residents on American shores.

That’s the disturbing finding of a report this week from Ohio Republican Rob Portman’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. It found the U.S. government is funding research for hundreds of scientists at American universities and labs who are effectively under contract to turn over their findings to China.

The report focuses on China’s Thousand Talents Program, or TTP, which was conceived in 2008 to recruit scientists based abroad to catapult China into the technological vanguard. Scientists recruited by the program work at universities across the U.S. but are often prohibited from disclosing their affiliation.

TTP members may return to China after conducting taxpayer-funded research in the U.S. and bring intellectual property and research findings with them. Or they may maintain “shadow labs” in China and use their U.S. government grants to advance science there while also on the payroll of a U.S. university. The research sometimes has national-security applications as in one case where a TTP scientist attempted to steal “design information for the F-22 and JSF-35 military jet engines.”

The theft here is not from U.S. corporations but from taxpayers. The U.S. government spends $150 billion a year supporting biology, chemistry, physics and engineering through the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy. Researchers and academics apply for grants from these institutions to fund their labs. Yet fraud is extensive and U.S. funds have “contributed to China’s global rise over the last 20 years,” according to the report.

Grant-making institutions have traditionally been lax in verifying information in applications, relying instead on universities that employ the grantees to ensure the integrity of the process. Yet the report says the FBI failed “to effectively warn the U.S. academic community of the threat of Chinese talent recruitment plans.” The State Department lacks needed tools to vet foreign scientists coming to work in the U.S.

Espionage and research theft have long been a problem as the U.S. is the world’s technological leader and it rightly welcomes immigrants and foreign nationals from across the world. The U.S. needs that talent. Yet China appears to be running an organized and often secret campaign to exploit the openness of American institutions to make a bid for technological and military dominance.

This does not mean that every Chinese student is a spy, or that Chinese-Americans should be suspected of dual loyalties. But there is a need for more transparency about Chinese subsidies for research in the U.S. and the demands China places on recipients. The challenge for U.S. law enforcement and the scientific community is to stop theft and deception without compromising the intellectual openness that has made the U.S. a scientific leader.

(China’s Bid on American Science. Wall Street Journal. November 20, 2019)

 

 

Our tax dollars shouldn’t go to fuel China’s rise

When U.S. taxpayers send their hard-earned money to the government, they shouldn’t worry that it’s being used to fuel economic and military growth in China. But that’s exactly what’s happening today.

Every year, more than $150 billion in U.S. taxpayer money goes towards cutting-edge research conducted at our excellent network of universities and research institutions, helping us remain the global leader in science and technology.

However, based on an eight-month bipartisan investigation by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that I chair, China has worked to exploit our U.S. research systems for their own gain. Our report reveals how the American taxpayer has, in effect, unwittingly footed the bill for research that has gone to China to advance national security and economic interests over the past two decades while our own federal agencies have done little to stop it.

Our investigation found that the Chinese government has used more than 200 so-called ‘talent programs,’ most notably their ‘Thousand Talents Plan’ to recruit American scientists and researchers to strategically acquire intellectual property from both America’s public and private sectors, including advances in artificial intelligence and 5G technology.

Since 2008, China has used its Thousand Talents Plan with large salaries and “shadow labs” to recruit more than 7,000 researchers from institutions in the U.S. and elsewhere. In exchange, these researchers sign legally binding contracts that can require them to hide their participation in the program from their research institution.

This runs counter to U.S. regulations requiring federal grant recipients to disclose any funding they receive from non-U.S. sources. What’s worse, the contracts sometimes require the researchers to acquire research from their government-funded labs and transfer it to China. In one case we found, a Thousand Talents Plan member used research created at a U.S. lab to file a patent under the name of a Chinese company, effectively stealing the U.S. government-funded research and claiming it for China.

These talent recruitment programs are a win-win for China. First, U.S. taxpayers are funding this research, not China. Second, China uses that research it would not otherwise have to advance its own economic and military interest. The federal government has been aware of this problem for years, but has done nothing to correct it.

Despite China publicly announcing the Thousand Talents Plan in 2008, it was not until last year that FBI headquarters took control of the response to the threat posed by the program. In response to our report, the FBI admitted that they wished that they had “taken more rapid and comprehensive action in the past” to address these talent programs.

Likewise, the State Department, which issues visas to foreign researchers who can be Thousand Talents members, rarely denies visas to those it thinks may steal our research.

Meanwhile, despite spending more than $150 billion of taxpayer money per year funding research and development, our federal grant-making agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation, don’t coordinate how they award, track, and monitor those funds. That leaves our research dollars vulnerable.

U.S. universities and research institutions must also take some responsibility for this problem. If universities can vet employees for scientific rigor or allegations of plagiarism, they can also vet for financial conflicts of interests and foreign sources of funding. These are complicated risks that the U.S. research community and the federal government must better understand.

I am pleased to see that the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy has been a leader in working with federal agencies and U.S. research institutions to help them better respond to these threats. I plan to work with the White House, national research agencies, universities, and the State Department on legislative solutions to protect our research. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to stop China’s exploitation of our taxpayer-supported research.

(Our tax dollars shouldn’t go to fuel China’s rise. Highland County Press. November 21, 2019)

 

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