As the crisis in Ukraine continues, more eyes are turning towards China. Over the weekend, The Washington Post reported that Russia is seeking military equipment and aid from China. Eric Sayers, a former advisor to the U.S. Indo Pacific Command, is quoted by The Post as saying, “If Beijing is offering any type of military assistance to aid Moscow’s war in Ukraine, the spillover effects on U.S.-China policy could be vast.” Sayers added, “It would abruptly end debate about pathways to working with Beijing. More importantly, it would push Washington to accelerate retaliatory and decoupling actions toward China, and create new pressure on companies now doing business in China.”
Companies like Lam Research, Applied Materials, and KLA Corporation – semiconductor equipment manufactures selling to Chinese fabs like YMTC, which have ties to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) – should be part of this conversation. We’ve written extensively about the need for the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) to levy export controls to prevent these American companies from putting profits over national security and fueling China’s unabashed ambition to dominate the world in high-tech areas like semiconductors.
But BIS currently lacks leadership at the top. Why? President Biden’s nominee to lead BIS – the most important agency most Americans have never heard of – is in limbo as he awaits Senate confirmation. Nominated seven months ago, Alan Estevez would bring national security expertise to the post at a critical time.
Mira Ricardel, former Deputy National Security Advisor and BIS Under Secretary for Export Administration, told us, “There is no reasonable justification for delaying a Senate vote to confirm Alan Estevez. He is highly qualified, has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate in the past, and he is needed to lead a vitally important national security organization within the U.S. Government.” She went on to say that “BIS had an enormous task of investigating and controlling emerging and critical technologies even before the war in Ukraine. Now it has the added challenge of managing oversight of dozens of entity list additions and expansive new export restrictions on Russia.” Ultimately “BIS has a highly capable staff and two confirmed Assistant Secretaries, but it needs leadership at the top – and senior representation in the interagency and White House policy process. The only parties that benefit from a lack of senior leadership at BIS are our adversaries,” Ricardel concluded.
Cordell Hull, former Acting BIS Director, agreed that Estevez should be confirmed quickly. “Having Thea Kendler and Matt Axelrod is a great and necessary start, but Alan Estevez confirmed as BIS Undersecretary would be ideal. He should be confirmed without delay,” said Hull.