Deciding Factors in Picking BIS Leadership

In their May 8th edition, The Economist published a narrow sighted piece regarding the forthcoming decision of who will lead The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). While it aptly spotlights the critical role of BIS, which may be the most important agency most Americans have never heard of, it’s missing the bigger picture on other points. In response, China Tech Threat submitted a Letter to Editor explaining our concerns which was published here.

The Economist suggests that a tough on China policy is about “curtailing China’s rise,” but that is not what export control – a key part of BIS’s stated mission – is about. It is about stopping the proliferation of sensitive technology into enemy’s hands. Even though restrictions have been imposed on Huawei, for example, the company has rallied in China and has expanded other revenue lines. However, the U.S. goal to stop the proliferation of malicious Huawei network equipment to the U.S. and its allies is working.

The Economist attempts to reduce BIS to its work regarding Huawei, but that is not an accurate assessment based on the numbers. Under the prior administration, the number of actors on the Entity List almost doubled to more than 1,600 today, with 330 in the PRC alone (about 100 are Huawei related). Now that the Export Control and Reform Act has been implemented, BIS has permanent statutory authority and expanded responsibilities, oversight for 38 emerging technology controls and additional foundational technologies, ability to enforce laws on U.S. firms operating overseas, and a synchronization to tie export controls to mandatory CFIUS filings.

Additionally, the article mistakenly tries to draw a line in the sand – suggesting that if President Biden nominated a credentialed, hard line critic on China like James Mulvenon, a perceived front-runner, it would be a clear signal that Biden doesn’t “have a plan for redrawing the lines of technological trade with China.” The true test of whether the Administration has a “real plan” on China will be whether President Biden’s nominee understands the CCP’s ambitions to steal and exploit U.S.-made technology and is willing to put the United States’ long-term national security interests ahead of short-term corporate profits. Whether that person has a law degree, a doctorate, or something else does not matter as long as they are prepared to work across agencies and departments and with Congress to execute the mission.

Find our more about the #FutureofBIS here.