WASHINGTON ― Amid news that thousands of banned Chinese-made surveillance devices are in use across American government installations, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is asking the Pentagon to identify the Chinese gear in use at U.S. military facilities.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper made public Wednesday, Rubio said the Trump administration needs a comprehensive strategy to address the threats posed by foreign-sourced components and subcomponents.
“The Department of Defense must act quickly to identify and remove this equipment as every day that passes only provides our adversaries additional time to infiltrate and exploit our national security networks as well as the ability to monitor U.S. military activities that may be of interest,” Rubio said.
The letter comes after Forbes reported the government has made little progress complying with a legally mandated ban on Chinese surveillance tech. Government contractor Forescout found 3,500 devices from from telecom giants Huawei and ZTE, as well as surveillance camera-makers Dahua and Hikvision, on U.S. government systems a month before the ban was to take effect.
Language in the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act banned the procurement of Chinese-produced cameras and associated electronics to ensure U.S. government installations are not at risk of surveillance by potentially malicious Chinese technology. The provision also prohibited the renewal of any contracts currently in use across the federal government.
“As you continue to posture the Department of Defense in the era of great power competition, we must remain vigilant to attack from every possible source,” Rubio said in his letter to Esper. “I strongly urge you to implement a comprehensive and proactive approach meeting the requirements of the ban cited in the FY 2019 NDAA."
Among other questions, Rubio’s letter asked what steps the DoD has taken to address the NDAA’s ban on procurement, whether the department has considered removing the technologies, and whether the future will bring further prohibitions on additional products or manufacturers.
Rubio wanted to know whether the DoD has a way to purge nontraditional surveillance gear automatically. “How would you detect non-traditional IP-connected products, those beyond, if future prohibitions on such products materialize?"
Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.