A congressional report accused the US Department of Commerce of failing to do its part to protect national security and keep sensitive technology out of the hands of the Chinese military.
The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission report, due to be released on Tuesday, June 8, said the Commerce Department has been slow to prepare a list of sensitive technology to be examined before exporting to China.
The delay in developing the list of emerging and fundamental technologies, as required by a 2018 law, could increase national security risks, the report said.
The Department of Commerce, tasked with strengthening U.S. export control laws, “to date has failed to fulfill its responsibilities,” states the report, titled “Unfinished Business:
Export Control and Foreign Investment Reforms.” In a statement, the Commerce Department declined to comment on the lack of a list, but noted it had published four rules on controls for emerging technologies and more are pending.
It also said it had expanded the military end-user rule and added companies to its entity list, which prohibits US suppliers from selling to certain Chinese companies such as Huawei Technologies and Hangzhou Hikvision.
In 2018, Congress tightened U.S. export policies and the foreign investment screening process in response to attempts by Chinese entities to acquire sensitive U.S. technology and use civilian innovation for the military.
In April, it expanded its economic blacklist of Chinese companies by adding seven supercomputing organizations, which it says support China’s military efforts.
The report questions whether the Commerce Department’s Inspector General should investigate the two-year delay in developing this list. It also asks whether it should delegate the power to enforce export controls to another body.
Congress passed the Export Control Reform Act of 2018 to make it more difficult to export key technologies to adversaries such as China.
The law instructed the Department of Commerce to work with other agencies to identify emerging or innovative technologies, along with the so-called fundamental technologies essential for making key items such as semiconductors, which must be monitored.
In November 2018, the department published 45 examples of emerging technologies, including facial and speech recognition, but a list was never made.
It has yet to propose a list of fundamental technologies and will instead ask for input on how to define the category in August this year.
Eric Hirschhorn, a former Commerce Undersecretary, said criticism of the agency was unfair.
“They already master emerging technologies to the extent that they can, which is limited by the need to be specific,” he said. “Basic technologies are, by definition, widely available outside the US, making them difficult, if not impossible, to master.
” The department has proposed regulating gene-editing software, which could make it easier to develop biological weapons, but the rule isn’t final yet.
It also released an interim rule on geospatial images with neural AI networks. Two decades ago, the US Congress established the US-China Commission to report on the national security implications of trade with China.
Carolyn Bartholomew, who was appointed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, now chairs it.