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Bipartisan senators pitch a White House tech security office

Marco Rubio and Mark Warner
Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) proposed legislation Friday to create a White House Office of Critical Technologies and Security that would advise the president and coordinate the government's response to intellectual property theft and supply chain risks.

Why it matters: Economic espionage, supply chain issues and national security are inextricably linked.

  • Tech products allegedly sabotaged by the Chinese government to enable espionage can be used to steal U.S. intellectual property, weakening U.S. economic security by driving down the cost and increasing the market share of those same sabotaged tech products.
  • Many products with civilian uses also have military uses. And while the U.S. generally supports efforts to keep those duel-use products out of the hands of countries like North Korea and Iran, Chinese firm ZTE was caught this summer selling sanctioned products to both countries.

The proposed office would address a number of issues:

  • The government's defenses against economic espionage and supply chain attacks are currently split between multiple agencies, ranging from the Department of Homeland Security to Treasury to State.
  • Meanwhile, President Trump has seen fit to interject himself in these issues, as with this summer's ZTE controversy, but lacks a single point of contact for advice.
  • The proposed head of the OCTS would bridge the gap between the economic and national security advisers to advise the president and general public on the issue.

The director of the office would report directly to the president, and maintain positions on the National Security Council and National Economic Council.

"China continues to conduct a coordinated assault on U.S. intellectual property, U.S. businesses, and our government networks and information with the full backing of the Chinese Communist Party. The United States needs a more coordinated approach to directly counter this critical threat."
— Sen. Marco Rubio

Go deeper: Why Chinese theft of U.S. tech is hard to stop