The Secure Equipment Act of 2021: From House to Senate to the President’s Desk

Last week, the Senate moved quickly to pass by unanimous consent The Secure Equipment Act of 2021, just eight days after the House of Representatives passed it 420-4. The legislation now moves to President Joe Biden’s desk for him to sign into law.

The bipartisan and bicameral legislation empowers the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to restrict equipment authorization to companies – such as the People’s Republic of China (PRC) state-backed firms Huawei and ZTE – on the agency’s “Covered Equipment or Services List.”

In today’s increasingly connected world, we must animate our technology with our values,” said Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), one of the bill’s co-sponsors. “That’s why our bipartisan legislation will keep compromised equipment out of U.S. telecommunications networks and ensure our technology is safe for consumers and secure for the United States.”

Additionally, the Senate’s other co-sponsor, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), noted that “Chinese state-directed companies like Huawei and ZTE are known national security threats and have no place in our telecommunications network. I am grateful that the Senate and House passed this bill, which will help keep compromised equipment from bad actors out of critical American infrastructure. Now, President Biden must swiftly sign it into law so that the Chinese Communist Party can no longer exploit this dangerous loophole.”

“This legislation adds an extra layer of security that slams the door on entities that pose a national security risk from having a presence in the U.S. telecommunications network,” House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), who cosponsored the bill with Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), said in a statement. Rep. Eshoo added, “Equipment made by Huawei and ZTE, companies linked to the Chinese government, increases the vulnerabilities of our telecommunication systems and puts our national security at risk. Our bipartisan, bicameral bill prohibits the FCC from issuing licenses for any telecommunications equipment made by Huawei or ZTE.”

For FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, this was a welcomed step in the process of securing the nation’s infrastructure. He has previously noted that this legislation “would close a glaring loophole that Huawei and others are exploiting today to place their insecure gear into our networks” and he is “pleased to see such strong bipartisan support for this legislation.” Carr recently called for the expansion of the FCC’s Covered List during China Tech Threat’s event late last month. He noted the importance of starting the process to add DJI, a Chinese drone maker, to the list. He cited mass collection of sensitive data, calling DJI “Huawei on wings.”

In a letter to Senate and House leaders, China Tech Threat and more than 20 bipartisan organizations applauded both House and Senate leaders on the swift passage of this critical legislation. The letter noted the value of The Secure Equipment Act to address the “egregious loophole” of equipment authorization to entities on the Covered List that present a serious risk from intrusion by the PRC. It also notes that “there are many other PRC entities making products, services, and components which pose an unacceptable national security risk to Americans and which should be considered for Covered List addition” and calls on the FCC to look at companies including the Yangtze Memory Technologies Corp (YMTC), Lenovo, and TikTok.

In support, the following signers joined China Tech Threat:

Krisztina Pusok PhD, Director – American Consumer Institute

Noah Vehafric, Student – American University, Department of Government

Jordan Brunner, National Security Attorney

Roslyn Layton PhD, Co-Founder – China Tech Threat

Clark Fonda, former Chief of Staff to Rep. Robert Pittenger (NC-9)

Jeff Ferry, Chief Economist- Coalition for a Prosperous America

Gerard Scimeca, Chairman – Consumer Action for a Strong Economy (CASE)

Emily Weinstein, Research Analyst* – Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET)

Joel Thayer, President – Digital Progress Institute

Hossein Moiin PhD, Partner – Elieum LLC

Silvia Elaluf-Calderwood, Adjunct Professor – Florida International University

Heritage Action for America

Andy Keiser, former Senior Advisor – House Intelligence Committee

Arthur Herman, Senior Fellow – Hudson Institute

Dan Lips, Vice President for National Security and Government Oversight – Lincoln Network

The Honorable Daniel S. Goldin, 9th Administrator National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)*

Seton Motley, President – Less Government

The Honorable Robert Pittenger, Former US House Representative (NC-9)

David Witkowski, CEO – Oku Solutions