At HSGAC Hearing, Portman Secures Commitment from OMB Nominees to Support Safeguarding American Innovation Act & FAST-41 Sunset Removal

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), as Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, secured a commitment from two Office of Management and Budget (OMB) nominees, Shalanda Young to be Deputy Director and Jason S. Miller to be Deputy Director for Management, to work on a bipartisan basis with Congress to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, support Portman’s bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act to protect American taxpayer funded research and intellectual property from foreign actors like China, protect the integrity and mission of Portman’s bipartisan BuyAmerica Act, as well as support the removal of the FAST-41 Act sunset provision. 

Senator Portman introduced the bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act to ensure that the federal government is taking decisive action to safeguard American innovation. The bipartisan legislation is based on the bipartisan report that Portman released in 2019, as then Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, that detailed how starting in the late 1990s through its “talent recruitment programs,” China began recruiting U.S.-based scientists and researchers to transfer U.S. taxpayer-funded IP to China for their own economic and military gain. Both nominees committed to supporting the legislation.

Finally, under current law, FAST-41 will expire in 2022.  Senator Portman previously has introduced legislation, the Federal Permitting Reform and Jobs Act, to lift the sunset on FAST-41, which will ensure that the Permitting Council can continue its work to make the infrastructure permitting process more efficient and reduce unnecessary delays. A more efficient permitting process supports the creation of new jobs, which will help the nation recover from the COVID-19 crisis. Both nominees committed to supporting Portman’s efforts to lift the sunset provision. 

Excerpts of the exchange can be found below and a video can be found here.

Portman: “Thank you Mr. Chairman and again thank you both for being here and your testimony so far this morning. We talked about COVID-19 a minute ago and I just have to interject here. I believe we need new legislation on COVID-19 but I think it needs to be far more targeted than what we have before us. And, as an example the $1.9 trillion is more money than we spend in our annual appropriations bill on the discretionary spending side. Is that true, Ms. Young? How much do we spend every year in Congress?” 

Ms. Young: “About $1.4 trillion.” 

Portman:About $1.4 trillion. So the $1.9 trillion alone is more than we spend in an entire year on discretionary spending. And the question is, where is that money going? And some of it is going to good purposes. I think the health care side is really important. The vaccines distribution, development. Some of it is going to areas that frankly have a lot of money right now because less than half, we’re told, of what was just appropriated at the end of the year has actually gone out, which was $900 billion. And so I guess my question to you is, will you work with us in the future to make these things more targeted to ensure taxpayer money is well used and with regard to the economy, Mr. Miller you said you thought we need to do legislation to create a foundation for future economic growth. Do you not believe the economy is growing now? We just had in January we had a 10 percent increase in income, in household income. The Congressional Budget Office, which is the nonpartisan group up here, tells us that the economy is growing and they believe by halfway through this year, this year, we’ll be back to where we were pre-pandemic in terms of our GDP. So I guess a couple questions, one, will you work with us on a more targeted approach and will you work with us on ensuring we have economic growth? By the way, CBO says that will happen without any new stimulus, any new stimulus. A new report out today saying only 20 percent of the money that was in the stimulus checks last time actually got spent. The rest of it was mostly saved. Wanted to know your thoughts on that, both of you, for going forward how do we work together better?” 

Ms. Young: “Senator Portman, thank you for that question. You have my commitment to work with you on a whole litany of things and certainly on any future need for stimulus in the economy. I’m happy, I think we can only solve this together so you certainly have my commitment to working on that and I think you’ve seen some evidence of a willingness by this administration. I have not been a part of it, I have not seen the final Senate package but I think if reports are true, that there has been a willingness to look at some more targeting of those funds. So you certainly have my commitment and I think the administration as we speak is working with senators to ensure that there is targeted relief to the American people.” 

Portman: “Thank you. Mr. Miller?” 

Mr. Miller: “Thank you, Ranking Member Portman. Thank you for the question. I concur with Ms. Young on my commitment to work with you, members of this committee. First on the overall current situation that we’re in. You know 10 million Americans are out of work. Measures like weekly unemployment insurance claims are still historically high, so I think we face deep economic challenges. But you are correct the GDP numbers, the GDP growth rates have been high. The issues even prior to the pandemic were deep-seated and I think we need to take appropriate investment looking forward. Once you make sure we have a strong foundation in place regarding a recovery. Irrespective, if confirmed in my role as the Deputy Director for Management, I would welcome the opportunity to work with you and members of the committee to make sure they we’re operating the programs that have been enacted by the Congress efficiently and effectively, including addressing concerns that have been raised in past programs or new programs.” 

Portman: “Including going after fraud? Do you make a commitment to that today?” 

Mr. Miller. “Yes, yes sir.” 

Portman: “As we talked about earlier. On BuyAmerica, I was pleased to see President Biden sign an executive order with the intent of strengthening the BuyAmerica Act. In some ways, it actually mirrors our bipartisan bill. In other ways, the executive order actually weakens the domestic content requirements, specifically by replacing the existing component test with a new value added test. That actually reduces the procurement of U.S. content. Will you commit to correcting this problem and to protect the integrity of the BuyAmerica Act?” 

Mr. Miller: “Ranking Member Portman, thank you for the question and commend you for your work and leadership on this issue. I think it’s critical that our procurement policies are enacting strong domestic preference requirements. As I understand it, the intent of the EO is to do just that and make sure that procurement is increasing the amount of domestic economic activity and you have my commitment to work with you to ensure that it does just that.” 

Portman: “I hope you’ll work with Senator Murphy and me on our legislation which codifies some of what was just done but actually I think does a better job of protecting American workers. Ms. Young and Mr. Miller, last year and Senator Carper and I introduced a bill called the Safeguarding American Innovation Act as a result of two investigations by this committee regarding Confucius Institutes in one case and the Thousand Talents program, China’s Thousand Talents program in the other case. The legislation would help stop foreign governments, particularly China, from stealing American technology. And this is usually taxpayerfunded research and intellectual property. A critical part of the legislation would establish a federal research security council at OMB. It would close the gap, we had identified in coordination and information sharing among the various federal agencies that provide most of the funding for that research. Would you commit to supporting the Safeguarding American Innovation Act?” 

Ms. Young: “Senator Portman, I’m more than familiar with the goals. I have not seen every detail of the act but I am committed to working with you on that legislation to make sure the goals of it are implemented. It makes common sense to make sure our research is protected and you certainly have my commitment to work with you on that.” 

Portman: “Great, we’ll get you the legislation and would love to have your help. Mr. Miller?” 

Mr. Miller: “Thank you, Ranking Member Portman, I agree it’s a key issue in making sure that our research enterprise or academic institutions are protected. We’ll welcome the opportunity to work with you on that issue.” 

Portman: “On permitting reform, we talked about this in our conversations and I appreciate your support generally for the FAST-41 bill I cosponsored in 2015. It’s a bipartisan bill that establishes a Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council. By the way, which has saved well over $1 billion in terms of permitting and many years of permitting for major projects. We specifically gave OMB a big role. It was a fight, frankly, with the Obama administration and they conceded in the end and gave you, if you were to be confirmed at OMB, the coordinating role as putting together the Council and coordinating these large projects that would be covered. I appreciated our conversations, again, and I want to ensure that we can work together to lift the sunset that’s otherwise going to happen on FAST-41. I want to ask now in this forum, will you commit to working with me to pass a sunset removal for FAST-41 that retains the current law as written?” 

Ms. Young: “It’s hard to argue with success and that act has had a lot of success. I will certainly commit to working with you on the sunset removal.” 

Portman: “Thank you. Mr. Miller?” 

Mr. Miller: “I would absolutely commit to working with you on it. The reported benefits of the permitting counsel thus far are substantial and I think it’s worth considering infrastructure investment, increased infrastructure investment is absolutely imperative that federal permitting is working and working efficiently.” 

Portman: “Great. My time is expired. I have so many more questions for you but I have a sense that we will probably have an opportunity to have that conversation over the next couple of years so thank you for your answers today and your commitment to serve us.”