House passes NDAA with TikTok ban

Editorial credit: Ascannio / 

Image credit: Ascannio/

The House of Representatives passed a defense bill for 2021 that authorizes $731.6 billion in defense spending, includes cyber, workforce, acquisition provisions and a ban on the popular social media app Tik Tok on government equipment.

The top-line spending levels of the bill are in line with the Trump administration's request. However, the White House issued a veto threat against the bill, in large part because of provision that call for renaming military installations named for Confederate generals.

The bill passed by a vote of 295-125.

The fiscal year 2021 iteration of the bill is named for Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, who is retiring after his current term expires.

"While we have an extraordinary track record of passing the NDAA, our record of getting our work done on time is not as sterling. The wasteful continuing resolutions we have consequently imposed on the military have done real damage to the force. We must avoid that fate this year and pass the conference report on time," Thornberry said in a statement.

Tik Tok

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), sponsored the amendment to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, banning the app. He called the platform a "serious national security threat" during the House floor debates July 20.

"The Chinese Communist Party is using TikTok to collect massive amounts of data from American citizens and our government that could be used in a cyberattack against our republic," Buck said. "The clock is ticking."

TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, is best known for its short, catchy, meme-worthy videos and its popularity with teens. But national security concerns have mounted over the past year due to the company's Chinese ownership and potential links to that country's military and government infrastructure. India recently banned the app and Australian politicians are considering similar measures. TikTok has denied connections to the Chinese government.

In the U.S., military branches began banning use of the app on work devices in late 2019, following Defense Department-issued guidance. If adopted, the amendment would prohibit TikTok from being downloaded on any government-issued device.

The move comes as the U.S. tightens regulations regarding Chinese telecommunications equipment. What's become known as the Huawei ban prevents the government from doing business with companies that use surveillance or telecommunications equipment manufactured by China-based companies.

The TikTok provision, which passed 336-71 as part of a package of amendments to the House version of the 2021 defense policy bill, was one of several cyber-related amendments to get voted on.

This article was updated to reflect final passage of the National Defense Authorization Act in the House.

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, 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 [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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