TheConversation

Blog archive

Sourcing restrictions: prudent or punitive?

china cyber

Responding to an Aug. 20 article in FCW on how NASA is enforcing rules governing the acquisition of China-sourced IT gear and software in a new government-wide procurement vehicle, a reader commented:

This is just calling for tit [for] tat protectionism all the way around. Let's hope Beijing is not as petty.

Adam Mazmanian responds:

The provision referred to in the original article requires four agencies – NASA, Commerce, Justice and the National Science Foundation – to obtain special approval when acquiring technology systems that are sourced to companies with ties to the Chinese government. Industry groups have opposed the measure, contained in the continuing resolution currently funding the government, in part because as the reader suggests, it invites retaliation. An April letter from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other trade groups to Congressional leaders opposing the measure noted that, "The Chinese government may choose to retaliate against U.S. based IT vendors by enacting a similar policy for screening IT system purchases in China."

So far, it's hard to point to substantive action on the part of China that can be linked to the U.S. policy. "I think the pieces are moving," said Jon Lindsay a research scientist at the University of San Diego who specializes in cybersecurity. "U.S. companies are going to get a ton more scrutiny from China."

The law is just one small piece affecting China's posture toward U.S. information technology firms. The naming of Huawei and ZTE as cyber-espionage security risks by the House Intelligence Committee in 2012 has diminished the ability of those companies to land U.S. contracts, even in the private sector. A report in February from Mandient traced U.S. cyberattacks to a Chinese army espionage unit. More damning are recent revelations about spying programs run by the National Security Agency with the cooperation of U.S. technology firms. Additionally, Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who was the source of the disclosures, made accusations, reported by the Hong Kong press, that the U.S. maintained the capability to spy on China through back doors in American-made network equipment.

State-run media in China has since reported that IBM, Oracle and EMC are under investigation over possible security concerns. Daniel Castro, senior analyst with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said recent moves by Chinese officials to examine U.S. technology firms were more in response to revelations about NSA spying than about law governing U.S. acquisitions. He noted that there are longstanding restrictions in place that apply to government procurement of technology for military and security use.

Lindsay understands the concerns of American technology companies when it comes to inviting retaliation. American companies have been able to maintain market share against Chinese competitors by producing better products. But now, "the Chinese have strong political reasons to get active and involved and start retaliating against the U.S.," he said.

Posted by Adam Mazmanian on Aug 29, 2013 at 7:11 AM


The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.

Featured

  • Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign event. Image: Shutterstock

    'Buy American' order puts procurement in the spotlight

    Some IT contractors are worried that the "buy American" executive order from President Trump could squeeze key innovators out of the market.

  • OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, shown here in as a member of Congress in 2013. (Photo credit Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

    White House taps old policies for new government makeover

    New guidance from OMB advises agencies to use shared services, GWACs and federal schedules for acquisition, and to leverage IT wherever possible in restructuring plans.

  • Shutterstock image (by Everett Historical): aerial of the Pentagon.

    What DOD's next CIO will have to deal with

    It could be months before the Defense Department has a new CIO, and he or she will face a host of organizational and operational challenges from Day One

  • USAF Gen. John Hyten

    General: Cyber Command needs new platform before NSA split

    U.S. Cyber Command should be elevated to a full combatant command as soon as possible, the head of Strategic Command told Congress, but it cannot be separated from the NSA until it has its own cyber platform.

  • Image from Shutterstock.

    DLA goes virtual

    The Defense Logistics Agency is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to eliminate its IT infrastructure and transition to using exclusively shared, hosted and virtual services.

  • Fed 100 logo

    The 2017 Federal 100

    The women and men who make up this year's Fed 100 are proof positive of what one person can make possibile in federal IT. Read on to learn more about each and every winner's accomplishments.

Reader comments

Fri, Aug 30, 2013 Al

I thought the Chinese were waging electronic espionage on our Government. I think that is more than petty. On a related note, American tech companies have reported losing money from overseas customers blaming the lack of privacy against the US Government. It's all very messy, but all parties seem to be taking reasonable measures to protect themselves.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group