A proposed rule will allow a government department’s secretary to block the purchase of foreign technology that pose an “undue” risk to the U.S. information and communications infrastructure.
The rule, published by the Department of Commerce Nov. 26, establishes procedures for Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to “identify, assess, and address” information and communication technology (ICT) transactions he deems risky to national security.
The proposed rule stems from an executive order President Donald Trump signed on May 15, which gave the secretary the authority to prohibit or mitigate transactions that involve ICT technology developed or supplied by entities located in adversarial nations.
Transactions will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and the secretary will take a “fact-specific approach” to evaluation, according to the Commerce Department announcement.
Specifically, transactions will be blocked or mitigated if they are found to have an "an undue risk of sabotage or subversion ICTS in the United States; an undue risk of catastrophic effects on the security and resiliency of critical infrastructure or the digital economy in the United States; or an unacceptable risk to national security or to the security and safety of U.S. persons.”
Under the proposed rule, the secretary will make a preliminary judgement and notify the involved parties, who will then be allowed to “submit a position, which may include proposed measures for mitigation.” The secretary will then make an unclassified, final determination that will be provided to the involved parties explaining why the decision was made.
“These rules demonstrate our commitment to securing the digital economy, while also delivering on President Trump’s commitment to our digital infrastructure," said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
While the Commerce news release doesn’t specifically call out China, the rule comes at a time when the United States government is deeply concerned about economic espionage and national security threats coming from Chinese telecom companies like Huawei and ZTE. The text of the rule hasn’t been published in the Federal Register yet.
The federal government is gravely concerned about the threats posed by Chinese telecom companies, particularly with 5G technology expected to hit the market in the next few years. The proposed rule from Commerce comes less than a week after the Federal Communications Commission decided to ban FCC subsidies from being spent on risky telecom equipment, specifically citing products from Huawei.
The public comment period will last 30 days.
Andrew Eversden covers all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.