This week President Biden nominated former Justice Department prosecutor Thea Kendler as assistant secretary for export administration at BIS. If confirmed, she would lead the export arm of BIS, an increasingly important role as US-China tensions rise.
This announcement comes off the back of Biden’s nomination of Alan Estevez earlier this month. In a statement on his nomination to be the Under Secretary of Industry and Security at the Commerce Department, China Tech Threat founder Roslyn Layton noted that “placing Mr. Estevez at the helm of BIS signals that the Biden administration understands the threat posed by China and is taking it seriously.” Further, through research into his career, China Tech Threat produced a memo to give further insight into what BIS might look like under his leadership.
Kendler has some 20 years experience in the security, counterintelligence, and export control function, both from the legal and defense domains. She served at Department of Justice during the time it stepped up enforcement and prosecution of China for intellectual property theft in recent years, bringing dozen of cases against Chinese government actors, government and military aligned firms and related entities.
In her current role, Kendler serves as a trial attorney in the Justice Department National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section played a key role in the US government’s high profile case against Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou. This case is predicated on a violation of the Wassennaar Arrangement that helps limit the exports of weapons and dual-use goods. Huawei has pleaded not guilty to the indictment, which has been updated to include charges for theft of trade secrets.
Prior to joining the Justice Department in 2014, Kendler served as senior counsel in the Commerce Department’s Office of Chief Counsel for Industry and Security. She has also practiced privately in the International Trade section of the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.
As with Mr. Estevez, this nomination of Ms. Kendler signals that the Administration will keep a tough stance on China and that it will nominate a proven professional to hit the ground running at BIS. At China Tech Threat we will continue to monitor the movement of both nominees. We encourage you to check out our resource on BIS at https://chinatechthreat.com/future-of-bis/