In early 2019 China stood out in the annual World Wide Threat Assessment presented by U.S. intelligence officials for its threats to U.S. networks. And multiple Chinese tech companies have had devices banned from the United States by the White House, citing national security risks. Now two senators want to create an executive office dedicated to securing the supply chain from growing adversary threats.

Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., filed amendments to the annual defense policy bill that would create an Office of Critical Technologies within the executive branch aimed at protecting the United States from state-sponsored technology theft.

The office would focus on creating coordination throughout the government on cybersecurity-related issues and its director would act as chief policy spokesperson for the federal government for cybersecurity and technology issues.

As an executive office, it would have a director appointed by and reporting directly to the president.

According to the proposed legislation, the director of this office would also be a deputy national security adviser for the National Security Council and serve on the council, be a deputy director for the National Economic Council and serve on the council, and serve as the chairperson of the Council on Critical Technologies and Security, which the bill is also proposing be created.

The council would have 21 heads of federal agencies, plus anyone else the chair finds appropriate, and would function as an adviser to the president on technological challenges created by foreign powers.

The legislation also proposes this office further educate U.S. public and business leaders on national security threats proposed by technologies.

The amendment is based off bipartisan legislation proposed earlier in 2019 by Warner and Rubio that would combat threats from China, according to a news release.

“In the 20th century, the U.S. pioneered many groundbreaking technological advancements, and today, countries like China are using every tool in their arsenal to try to diminish U.S. leadership, set the standards for technologies like 5G, and dominate key technologies,” Warner said in a statement.

“In order to confront this challenge, the United States must push forward a coherent strategy to protect our technological edge and preserve American leadership.”

“The sheer size and complexity of the global DoD supply chain is a source of significant risk,” said John DeSimone, vice president of cybersecurity, Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services, in response to the amendment.

“With thousands of suppliers supporting the industrial complex, it is a monumental challenge to ensure all of them have adopted an effective security posture, have the right tools and updated software and maintain trained staff on how to spot potential threats. Not to mention, the amount of data that is being collected and transmitted on a daily basis. The implementation of a security framework that provides one, unified approach to control the visibility of system data will create necessary resiliency.”

Recognizing that a whole-of-government approach to protecting technology requires a properly vetted workforce, Warner also introduced amendments based on previous legislation he proposed in the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal years 2018-2020 that would reform the security clearance process.

“To ensure the U.S. can hire trusted professionals to tackle the emerging threats in cyber and technology, we must modernize our outdated security clearance system,” Warner said in a news release.

The proposed amendment would analyze the time and speed of intrusions into Defense Department networks by adversaries to create better detection methods.

Kelsey Reichmann is a general assignment editorial fellow supporting Defense News, Fifth Domain, C4ISRNET and Federal Times. She attended California State University.

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