KATIE BRITT, Senator for Alabama

WASHINGTOND.C., January 22, 2024 – U.S. Senator Katie Britt (R-Ala.) last week participated in a Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing entitled, “National Security Challenges: Outpacing China in Emerging Technology.”

The witnesses were: Director of the Energy, Economics, and Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, Emily Kilcrease; Founder and Executive Director of the National Security Institute at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, Jamil Jaffer; and Senior Fellow for Emerging Technologies for The Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund, Lindsay Gorman.

Senator Britt began her remarks by addressing the increased threat that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) poses to American innovation, research, and technology, citing that, on average, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opens a new China-related counterintelligence case every 10 hours. She addressed the CCP’s blatant efforts to not only steal American innovation and technology, but also to aid and abet Iran, and buy up U.S. farmland, all at the expense of hardworking Americans, small businesses, and industries.

Furthermore, Senator Britt noted her concern regarding BRICS, the intergovernmental organization that counts China as one of its founding members, and the surge in countries interested in joining the group. She highlighted the “startling” requests of 22 countries recently applying for membership.

Mr. Jaffer agreed with Senator Britt, stating that the U.S. has not done “nearly enough” to address the potential national security implications of BRICS expanding its global influence.

A transcript follows:

BRITT:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you to all of our witnesses for being here today. Mr. Jaffer, as a former staffer to a former staffer, welcome.

We continue to be reminded of the national and economic security implications of the Chinese Community Party and the threat that they pose both to our country and to our future. Time and time again, the CCP has shown that they’re not willing to play by the rules that govern international commerce.

They have aided and abetted Iran evading U.S. sanctions and are actively stealing U.S. technology and intellectual property across whole sectors of our economy – from artificial intelligence, to computing, to robotics, to biology, and beyond.

In fact, the FBI’s economic espionage caseload related to China has increased approximately 1,300% over the last decade – today, on average, a China-related counterintelligence investigation is opened every 10 hours.

The stakes could not be higher. We must act now to mitigate the ongoing economic harm happening to hardworking American families, Main Street small businesses, budding entrepreneurs, and critical industries.

To that point, we must stop the CCP from buying U.S. land. Not only is this impacting the availability of fertile farmland for our agriculture community, but the CCP has deliberately compromised (U.S.) national security by purchasing land near our military installations.

That’s why I’m proud to have joined Senator Tom Cotton in introducing the Not One More Inch or Acre Act, and I continue to [urge] my colleagues to join us in this effort.

The U.S. [also has] existing tools that protect our national security, and safeguard technological innovation happening on college campuses and [at] research and development labs and facilities across the nation. We’ve taken a look, and we’re looking at what the CCP is trying to do to undermine those things.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States – in addition to export controls, classification and security clearances, and sanctions – all contribute to the firewall protecting American innovation, American IP, and American research from the Chinese Communist Party and other nefarious actors.

Mr. Jaffer, I’d like to ask you – where are the gaps in our current toolbox, and how do we ensure that U.S. security capabilities are able to keep up with evolving tactics and technologies that are being deployed by the Chinese Communist Party to steal our cutting-edge, our ground-breaking technology, the research and innovation that’s happening here in the U.S.?

JAFFER: Well, Senator Britt, I think there’s a few things we can do to staunch the flow of U.S. intellectual property out the backdoor.

One, we’ve got to deter effectively to China. That means taking the fight to them. We’ve allowed the NSA and our cyber command to get more aggressive and to lean forward, to defend forward in adversary networks. More needs to be done there.

We need broader authorities to allow our government to push back more aggressively. We need to take the policy decisions to actually push back against Chinese depredation and the efforts that other nation-state actors, like the Iranians and Russians, are doing on our networks as well.

Second, we also need to ensure that we have the policies and procedures in place that allow us to effectively push back economically against the Chinese. Today, we use tools like the SDN list, the entities list – these are not tools that are designed for the kind of economic depredation they engage in. We have either a sledgehammer on one side or a scalpel on the other – neither works, we need a butcher knife and that requires action by Congress to give the administration more tools, and then the administration needs to use those tools and use them effectively.

Simply designating a group like the Houthis as a Specially Designation Global Terrorist (SDGT) and not using the FTO (Foreign Terrorist Organization) designation is a mistake.

BRITT: Could not agree more.

JAFFER: Exactly. So, we need to be more aggressive. It’s not just in capabilities and tools (that) we need to use more aggressively. We’ve gotten too used to only using economic tools that are not as effective as they could be – we need to get more aggressive on that front as well.

BRITT: While we’re talking, I know I only have less than a minute, I want to transition a minute into BRICS. When I am looking at what I am seeing, obviously we saw four more countries join earlier this month. Over 40 countries have expressed interest in joining BRICS, and 22 of them have formally requested membership.

I think this is startling and concerning, and I think we need to wake up. I think we need to demand that [countries] withdraw from BRICS.

My question to you is, in your opinion, has the U.S. adequately examined the consequences and economic concerns and potential national security implications of BRICS, and what more do we need to be doing to push back on this?

JAFFER: We have not done nearly enough. The reality is that we are in somewhat of a Cold War today with China. We have to view the Chinese effort to consolidate its influence and authority over nations in our own hemisphere, as well as in Africa and around the globe, as a strategic threat to our ability to continue to lead the world.

That comes from us being a strong adversary to our foes and a strong ally to our friends. Nobody trusts the United States today, they don’t trust that we’re going to be there. They saw what we did to our allies with the Kurds under the prior administration, they saw what we did to our allies in Afghanistan under the current administration. They have seen it over and over again.

They see our adversaries punching us with Iran, with China, with Russia. They see us take those punches and do little to confront them. Until we demonstrate that we are prepared to lead and be a good ally to our friends and a good adversary to our foes, nobody is going to come alongside us, BRICS will continue to grow, China will continue to gain influence, and countries in our own hemisphere will switch their recognition from Taiwan to China – it’s happened twice in the last six months.

BRITT: Yep, it’s a huge strategic threat. Thank you so much, I appreciate it.

A video of Senator Britt’s line of questioning can be viewed here.

Senator Britt continues to use her position on the Senate Banking Committee to emphasize the importance of holding the Chinese Communist Party accountable, especially as the CCP provides critical assistance to U.S. foreign adversaries, such as Iran. She has also cosponsored several pieces of legislation to combat aggression and malfeasance from the CCP, including the Cutting-off Communist Profiteers Act, Protecting America from Spies Act, and the Chinese Currency Accountability Act.

As referenced in her remarks, Senator Britt joined Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in introducing the Not One More Inch or Acre Act last March, legislation that would prevent any Chinese national or entity from owning American land in light of recent land purchases by the CCP, including property immediately adjacent to military bases.

Additionally, Senator Britt is a cosponsor of the Science and Technology Agreement Enhanced Congressional Notification Act, which would strengthen oversight of science and technology agreements (STAs) between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) by requiring the Secretary of State to provide comprehensive details to Congress about any new, renewed, or extended agreement and establishing a minimum 30-day Congressional review period.

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