Bipartisan House Bill Looks to Counter Foreign Espionage Against Academia

A group of bipartisan representatives introduced the Securing American Science and Technology Act of 2019 (SASTA) to address foreign espionage of academic research at higher education institutions on May 30.

Reps. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, Elise Steganik, R-N.Y., Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, and Frank Lucas, R-Okla., introduced the legislation to promote “standardization of Federal agency approaches to academic espionage while maintaining collaboration and a welcoming environment for foreign talent at our institutions of higher education,” according to a Langevin press release.

SASTA will require the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to form an interagency working group from experts in science, intelligence, and security agencies under the existing authority of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC).

The group would analyze and review existing control mechanisms of Federally funded research, as well as develop a policy framework for addressing agency and Federal grant recipient security needs.

Additionally, SASTA would establish a “roundtable,” consisting of National Academies representatives to create ongoing conversations among Federal security and science agencies and academia to share best practices through public reports.

Langevin, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities, said the act would build efforts to combat espionage while fostering greater relationships between academia and Federal agencies.

“The Securing American Science and Technology Act will better coordinate federal efforts to protect our universities while also taking steps to protect the important academic and cultural contributions that international students bring to our country,” he said.

Academic representatives also spoke positively of the legislation, such as Brown University President Christina Paxson.

“The bill protects the open exchange of ideas and academic collaboration required for the scientific progress that has contributed to our country’s preeminent global position in science and technology,” Paxson said.

14 other universities also endorsed the legislation.

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