A bipartisan group of 29 members of Congress led by U.S. Congressmen Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA) sent a letter to the conference committee for the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Monday urging the inclusion of legislation to combat academic espionage at institutions of higher education in the final version of the bill. The legislation, known as the Securing American Science and Technology Act (SASTA), passed as section 1089 of the House version of the NDAA earlier this year.
“Section 1089 of the House-passed NDAA, known as the Securing American Science and Technology Act (SASTA), would improve coordination between the intelligence agencies, security and science agencies, and the universities community to bolster protection of university research,” the lawmakers wrote. “We see Section 1089 as a call to action by enabling the whole of society to implement sophisticated procedures to protect our academic research, while safeguarding the open exchange of ideas and collaboration that is required for the advancement of science.”
Congressman Gonzalez first introduced SASTA alongside Rep. Mikie Sherril (D-NJ) and Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) in May of this year. The legislation works to address academic espionage at U.S. colleges and universities by promoting the standardization of federal agency approaches to academic espionage while maintaining collaboration and a welcoming environment for foreign talent at our academic institutions.
“Cutting edge research is happening at universities across Ohio, and it is absolutely imperative that we do everything we can to protect that research and our students from becoming victims of academic espionage at the hands of countries like Russia and China,” said Congressman Gonzalez. “We know this type of foreign hostility is currently happening at universities across our nation, and it is vital for our national security and our economic future that we do a better job of preventing it while promoting the great work being done by our researchers.”
“Ohio State is supportive of the Securing American Science and Technology Act (SASTA) included in the House version of the NDAA. We believe this will enable a stronger working relationship between various Federal agencies and higher education through venues such as the proposed National Science, Technology, and Security Roundtable convened by the National Academies. We’re grateful for Representative Gonzalez’ leadership on this critical issue for higher education,” said Dr. Morley O. Stone, Senior Vice President for Research at The Ohio State University.
Universities throughout the state of Ohio are on the cutting edge of innovation and advancement, which has made their research programs a top target for nations like China, who are actively stealing intellectual property and world-renowned research and development. SASTA works to secure this ground-breaking and sometimes sensitive research by establishing an interagency working group of science, intelligence and security agencies to evaluate existing mechanisms of control for federally funded research and develop a policy framework to address the security needs of agencies and grant recipients. It also facilitates an ongoing dialogue among federal science and security agencies and academia to share best practices on protecting this important research and keeping our universities safe.