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Marco Rubio urges Defense Dept. to beef up security, ditch Chinese equipment

The National Defense Authorization Act does not prohibit the use of the cameras.

On the heels of reports that the Department of Defense still uses Chinese-made surveillance cameras banned for purchase by the federal government, U.S. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio sent Secretary of Defense Mark Esper a letter Wednesday urging the secretary to implement a strategy to meet the new national security requirements. 

Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that the department still uses more than 2,700 Chinese equipment addressed by the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act in government facilities and military installations.

The act does not prohibit the use of the cameras. Instead, it bans purchases and phasing out the equipment’s use. But Rubio, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, wrote that the purpose of the addition was to reduce the risk of foreign surveillance by “potentially malicious Chinese technology.”

“The Department of Defense must act quickly to identify and remove this equipment as every day that passes only provides our adversaries additional time to infiltrate and exploit our national security networks as well as the ability to monitor U.S. military activities that may be of interest,” Rubio said.

Congress blacklisted cameras and related electronics produced by Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, Dahua Technology and other Chinese companies. The law also stopped the renewal of federal contracts with these companies.

The Department of Commerce, citing the business’ ties to human rights violations and surveillance of minority groups, also flagged the tech companies this month, requiring that U.S. suppliers obtain licenses to ship their products.

In the letter, Rubio posed several questions on the department’s plan to comply with the new requirements and future restrictions, including what steps the department has already taken.

“As you continue to posture the Department of Defense in the era of great power competition, we must remain vigilant to attack from every possible source,” Rubio said. “I strongly urge you to implement a comprehensive and proactive approach meeting the requirements of the ban cited in the FY 2019 NDAA.”

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