Time to Decouple Defense Department and NASA from CCP-Tied Interests - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Time to Decouple Defense Department and NASA from CCP-Tied Interests
Air Force pararescue forces work to recover mock astronauts from a SpaceX Orion capsule during an exercise at Cocoa Beach, Florida, on Aug. 3, 2022 (Sean Castellano/U.S. Space Command)

On Jan. 11, the United States and Japan unveiled plans to strengthen their alliance to counter threats from China. In a joint statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Japan Minister of Foreign Affairs Yoshimasa Hayashi, and Japan Minister of Defense Yasukazu Hamada said, “China’s foreign policy seeks to reshape the international order to its benefit and to employ China’s growing political, economic, military, and technological power to that end. This behavior is of serious concern to the alliance and the entire international community and represents the greatest strategic challenge in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.”

I couldn’t agree more strongly. The recent congressionally mandated report released by the Department of Defense in December on the People’s Republic of China’s military and security developments detailed what Congress and defense leaders have known for decades — China represents the most significant threat to the United States’ national security interests. And yet, American aerospace and defense companies and their partners, subcontractors, and affiliates can still do business with the Chinese Communist Party in the United States. Why?

Although members of the 117th Congress raised concerns that SpaceX and other core Department of Defense and NASA contractors may possess direct or indirect ties to the CCP, they did not manage to pass any substantial legislative vetting or accountability measures before the end of the session. That’s a problem given the urgency of the threat that the U.S. currently faces.

China has successfully hacked agencies critical to the U.S.’ space operations, including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Goddard Space Flight Center, for over a decade. It’s easy to understand why: the CCP is stopping at nothing to outmaneuver the U.S.’ defense apparatus and become the world’s premier aerospace superpower. The communist regime doesn’t see this as a game of friendly competition; it sees it as the groundwork for future warfare with the U.S.

As Richard Fisher, vice president at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, put it, China seeks “to achieve control of low earth orbit in order to defeat the United States on Earth.” And that time may be coming sooner than some think. Gen. David L. Goldfein, the 21st chief of staff of the Air Force, said he “believe[s] we’re going to be fighting from space in a matter of years” and that we “must lead [the] joint war fighting in this new contested domain.” But how can we lead this joint war if our defense and space industries remain tied to companies that are working with or in close proximity to the CCP?

We already know that China conducts intricate surveillance, hacking, and intellectual property theft operations with the goal of leapfrogging the U.S.’ defense and aerospace capabilities, so allowing the companies who work intimately with the Department of Defense and NASA to maintain their direct or indirect connections to the CCP doesn’t make any sense. It’s putting these companies’ operations at risk and America’s entire national security apparatus in jeopardy, so the time has come to mandate they divest from the predatory interests within their operations and supply chains.

Last year, Sen. Marco Rubio, the vice chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, introduced legislation that would have done just this. His bill, the Space Protection of American Command and Enterprise (SPACE) Act, would have required that:

[N]o funds under the U.S. Department of Commerce or National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) may be used to purchase or lease telecommunications or aerospace hardware/software and/or services from any telecommunications or aerospace corporations, subsidiaries, or affiliates with links to the Chinese Communist Party, including the government of the People’s Republic of China, the People’s Liberation Army, the China National Space Administration, the China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation Limited (CASIC), and/or the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), BeiDou Satellite Navigation Experimental System, and any PRC military firm identified by the Department of Defense according to NDAA FY1999 Section 1237.

Rubio’s bill represented a common-sense solution to a precarious problem. While congressional leadership didn’t consider the bill last year, the 118th Congress should introduce similar legislation and pass it without delay.

We’re running out of time to address this problem. At a December event at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Nina Armagno, director of staff of the U.S. Space Force, stated that “it’s entirely possible [China] could catch up and surpass us” due to the “stunningly fast” progress the country has made in bolstering its space program. NASA Director Bill Nelson echoed those concerns in a Politico interview this month, remarking that “it is true that we better watch out that they don’t get to a place on the moon under the guise of scientific research” because “it is not beyond the realm of possibility that they say, ‘Keep out, we’re here, this is our territory.’”

Let’s not wait until China outmatches the U.S. in military might to make much-needed changes. Let’s mandate that DOD and NASA contractors divest entirely from CCP interests today so that the U.S. can retain its superiority and critical position on the geopolitical stage. It’s what’s needed to keep the American people — and the rest of the world — safe and at peace.

Paul Boardman is chairman of the Decouple China PAC.

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