NDAA update: AI funding, space warfare and a ban on Chinese phones

The Pentagon (Photo by Ivan Cholakov / Shutterstock)

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) wants a total government ban on devices from Chinese manufacturers Huawei and ZTE, according to a preview of the chairman’s markup for the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.

Thornberry proposes to prohibit “any U.S. government agency from using risky technology produced by Huawei or ZTE,” according to the document.

The proposal comes days after the Pentagon directed military exchange services and commissaries to stop selling products made by Huawei due to potential security concerns. ZTE (Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment Corp.) products were also added to the directive made by the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness for the same reason.

A DODwide advisory for the products is under consideration, but Thornberry’s proposal goes further. Additionally, the summary states the proposal “enjoys wide bipartisan support” and matches with recent regulatory actions by the Federal Communications Commission.

Thornberry's draft of the bill also instructs DOD to create a “separate alternative acquisition process” for space programs. It directs the Air Force to increase the size of the space cadre and create “a new numbered Air Force” just for space warfighting. Thornberry’s proposal also asks for a sub-unified space command under U.S. Strategic Command.

Thornberry also plans to push forward efforts led by the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and to provide additional funds for artificial intelligence, machine learning, hypersonics and direct energy programs and policy.

The full committee will take up the chairman’s markup May 9.

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is a staff writer at FCW covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at, or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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