Three influential members of the House of Representatives’ Armed Services Committee have thrown their weight behind a simple bill which, if enacted, would force the disclosure of every comms provider operating in the USA that is partly owned by nations believed to pose a threat to national security. The proposed Foreign Adversary Communications Transparency (FACT) Act defines those countries as:
- the People’s Republic of China;
- North Korea;
- Cuba; and
The bill was introduced by Rep. Elise Stefanik (pictured center), the third-highest ranking Republican in the House, with support from fellow Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher (pictured right) and prominent Democrat Rep. Ro Khanna (pictured left). China was singled out as the main target in a press release. Stefanik commented:
I’m working to shine a light on the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party and our other foreign adversaries.
This is a common-sense bipartisan bill to help us get the facts about which companies operating here in America are owned in part by countries like China.
China already had a problem with how it is perceived in the USA before it started flying balloons to overtly spy upon the country. Some sections of the telecoms industry have been trying to pretend Cold War 2 has not already begun because they would like to keep doing business with both sides. They have often tried to portray anti-China sentiment as reflecting the national security anxieties of hard right politicians, though that became less tenable when Russia started a hot war in Ukraine. The support of Khanna for FACT is telling not just because he is on the left of the Democratic Party. Khanna represents one of the richest districts in Congress because it lies in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley. This gives 46 year old Khanna the ability to position himself as a man of the people who is competent to take the lead with technology policy, as well as giving him the financial backing to match his obvious ambition. If Khanna believes he will win votes by opposing Chinese influence then the doves of the telecoms industry can expect to receive no support from the US government, no matter which party is in the ascendancy.
This is the second time this bill has been introduced; it did not proceed beyond Congress’ committee stage following its first introduction in October 2022. Stefanik and Gallagher were respectively the sponsor and co-sponsor on that occasion. The legislative process in the USA can be tortuously hard to follow, even for those few people who understand it, but much depends on whether sufficient time is scheduled for the consideration of a proposed law. Stefanik and Gallagher are likely calculating that Khanna’s support will boost the chances of the bill progressing further this time.
You can find the full text of FACT by looking here.