By: Micaela Burrow, Daily Caller News Foundation
China controls some elements of the national security supply chain, the top U.S. cyber chief told Congress at a hearing Tuesday in remarks that hinted at the difficulty of walling off the Pentagon from Beijing’s influence.
U.S. Cyber Command chief and National Security Agency director Gen. Paul Nakasone warned against depending on Chinese-origin equipment even as he highlighted the impossibility of divesting entirely from Chinese supply chains in response to a line of questioning from Republican Florida Sen. Rick Scott. The cyber domain presents a vast field of targets and opportunities for China, including through trade in goods and commodities, Nakasone explained.
“So much of what we do that is based on international trade, and China has the corner on some things,” Nakasone said. Were Nakasone responsible for a company or critical infrastructure, “what I would do is ensure that the areas that are most sensitive to our operation are well censored,” he added.
“I have the confidence that what’s being utilized there, I understand where that information may be going,” he said.
Nakasone testified alongside U.S. Special Operations Command leader Gen. Bryan Fenton and Christopher Maier, assistant secretary of Defense for special operations, on the posture of U.S. cyber and special operations forces and answered questions regarding funding priorities ahead of the Biden administration’s budget request, scheduled for reveal later this week.
“Is there anything that China sells in this country that you don’t believe creates a potential cybersecurity risk, and what would it be that they could sell us that wouldn’t?” Scott asked.
“This points to the challenge that we have to be able to address, which is supply chain — to make sure that the elements of the supply chain that we operate particularly within the Department of Defense are secure,” Nakasone said. It would be “difficult” to even conceive of totally substituting Chinese products with those produced in the U.S. or by friendly nations.
Apps like Tik Tok, whose parent company is headquartered in China, and even commercially sourced cranes operating at U.S. ports could serve as vectors for collecting data on Americans, Reed said.
Nakasone said he would advise companies to “take a very, very hard look at anything that was coming from an adversarial nation.”
The Biden administration has presented the U.S. relationship with China as one of competition, not conflict, amid pressure from Congress to crack down on Chinese espionage and U.S. dependence on Chinese manufacturing. Congress and executive agencies have struck a broad consensus on the need to block espionage tools from accessing sensitive data on American soil and reduce economic dependence on Chinese technology.
In November, the Federal Communications Commission banned new imports of Chinese-owned telecommunications equipment, including some equipment suspected of surveilling sensitive U.S. military sites.
China is not only rapidly modernizing its own military but dominating critical supply chains the U.S. weapons industry depends on to meet the Pentagon’s demands, lawmakers and industry representatives said earlier in February.