On February 7, 2023, the House Committee on Armed Services (the “Committee”) held a hearing entitled “The Pressing Threat of the Chinese Community Party to U.S. National Defense.” This hearing marked the Committee’s first in the 118th Congress and it focused on U.S. strategic competition with the Chinese Communist Party (“CCP”) of the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”). This overview is the first in a series of legislative updates we will provide on congressional oversight activities related to China throughout the Congress, including specific activities focused on trade controls, supply chain dependencies, and PRC-sourced telecommunications infrastructure in U.S. networks.

Admiral Harry Harris, USN (Ret.), former commander of U.S. Pacific Command, and Dr. Melanie Sisson, Foreign Policy Fellow at the Strobe Talbott Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology, appeared before the committee as witnesses. The substance and tenor of their testimony, reflected throughout the hearing from Member statements, was bipartisan agreement that the PRC and the Chinese Communist Party CCP pose a significant threat to the United States and its way of life.

Key members to watch this Congress, all of whom participated in the hearing, include, Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI), HASC Member and Chairman of the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, as well as Select Committee Members Rob Wittman (R-VA), Jim Banks (R-IN), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Andy Kim (D-NJ), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), and newly elected Carlos Gimenez (R-FL).

We expect these members will work together over the coming months to advance legislative measures in the defense authorization bill to address perceived threats posed by the CCP, particularly after its recent deployment of a surveillance balloon over the United States and military exercises near Taiwan.

Key policy takeaways from the hearing include:

  • The CCP’s military capability in hypersonic missile technology, artificial intelligence (“AI”), quantum computing, and space-based capabilities continues to advance at a rapid pace.
  • Admiral (Ret.) Harris’s suggestion that the CCP is signaling its intent to re-unify Taiwan, by force if necessary, and his recommendation that U.S. policymakers pursue a U.S.-Taiwan bilateral trade agreement to show other nations that the United States is committed in its support of Taiwan. Admiral Harris also recommended U.S. policymakers ensure that U.S. trade controls, such as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (“ITAR”), do not unnecessarily impede the transfer of U.S. nuclear submarine technology to Australia under the trilateral AUKUS agreement.
  • The need for the United States to deepen diplomatic and security partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region to enhance deterrence, including furthering diplomatic and security-related outreach with countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.
  • The importance of the United States moving away from dependency on Russian-made rockets for space launch services in light of active competition by Russia and China with the United States in space. Additionally, the U.S. should accelerate cyber and AI capabilities, and increase investments in both offensive and defensive hypersonic missile technology.
  • The dependency of the United States’ supply chain on China remains a growing area of concern, particularly for the defense industrial base. For instance, Admiral Harris testified that materials that comprise the energetics for weapons systems (i.e., propulsion materials for munitions) represent a current supply chain weakness, given that approximately 90 percent of current U.S. energetics materials are sourced from the PRC.

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This hearing represents the first iteration in what we expect to be an ongoing focus on perceived threats posed by the CCP. As Congress’ fact finding begins to turn into legislative action, companies can likely expect to see greater restrictions on interactions with China and increased requirements for supply chain illumination, particularly when selling to the U.S. Government. Our multidisciplinary team will continue to monitor these efforts and is uniquely positioned to provide thoughtful strategic advice to clients seeking to monitor and react to these evolving U.S.-China-related issues

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Photo of Stephanie Barna Stephanie Barna

Stephanie Barna draws on over three decades of U.S. military and government service to provide advisory and advocacy support and counseling to clients facing policy and political challenges in the aerospace and defense sectors.

Prior to joining the firm, Stephanie was a senior…

Stephanie Barna draws on over three decades of U.S. military and government service to provide advisory and advocacy support and counseling to clients facing policy and political challenges in the aerospace and defense sectors.

Prior to joining the firm, Stephanie was a senior leader on Capitol Hill and in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Most recently, she was General Counsel of the Senate Armed Services Committee, where she was responsible for the annual $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Additionally, she managed the Senate confirmation of three- and four-star military officers and civilians nominated by the President for appointment to senior political positions in DoD and the Department of Energy’s national security nuclear enterprise, and was the Committee’s lead for investigations.

Previously, as a senior executive in the Office of the Army General Counsel, Stephanie served as a legal advisor to three Army Secretaries. In 2014, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel appointed her to be the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. In that role, she was a principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense on all matters relating to civilian and military personnel, reserve integration, military community and family policy, and Total Force manpower and resources. Stephanie was later appointed by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to perform the duties of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, responsible for programs and funding of more than $35 billion.

Stephanie was also previously the Deputy General Counsel for Operations and Personnel in the Office of the Army General Counsel. She led a team of senior lawyers in resolving the full spectrum of issues arising from Army wartime operations and the life cycle of Army military and civilian personnel. Stephanie was also a personal advisor to the Army Secretary on his institutional reorganization and business transformation initiatives and acted for the Secretary in investigating irregularities in fielding of the Multiple Launch Rocket System and classified contracts. She also played a key role in a number of high-profile personnel investigations, including the WikiLeaks breach. Prior to her appointment as Deputy, she was Associate Deputy General Counsel (Operations and Personnel) and Acting Deputy General Counsel.

Stephanie is a retired Colonel in the U.S. Army and served in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps as an Assistant to the General Counsel, Office of the Army General Counsel; Deputy Staff Judge Advocate, U.S. Army Special Forces Command (Airborne); Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Manpower & Reserve Affairs); and General Law Attorney, Administrative Law Division.

Stephanie was selected by the National Academy of Public Administration for inclusion in its 2022 Class of Academy Fellows, in recognition of her years of public administration service and expertise.

Photo of Alexander Hastings Alexander Hastings

Alex Hastings advises clients across a broad range of government contracting issues, including advising clients in transactional matters involving government contractors and assisting defense contractors and pharmaceutical companies in securing and performing government contracts.

Mr. Hastings also advises clients concerning best practices in…

Alex Hastings advises clients across a broad range of government contracting issues, including advising clients in transactional matters involving government contractors and assisting defense contractors and pharmaceutical companies in securing and performing government contracts.

Mr. Hastings also advises clients concerning best practices in e-discovery. He assists in investigations and litigations that involve complex e-discovery issues and has represented clients in matters involving the U.S. Department of Justice, Securities and Exchange Commission and the United States International Trade Commission.

Mr. Hastings’ government contracts experience includes advising clients regarding new developments in regulatory requirements, including the Federal Acquisition Regulation’s (FAR) anti-human trafficking requirements and the FAR and Bayh-Dole Act’s intellectual property provisions. Mr. Hastings also provides due diligence regulatory advice to clients contemplating the acquisition of government contracting entities or assets.

Mr. Hastings’ e-discovery experience includes advising a wide-array of clients on best practices in information governance and document collection and assisting clients develop effective mobile device and document management policies.

Mr. Hastings also maintains an active pro bono practice and routinely writes on issues related to government contracts and e-discovery.