Portman, Carper, Rubio Applaud Committee Passage of Bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act to Stop Theft of U.S. Research & Intellectual Property by Global Competitors

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Tom Carper (D-DE), and Marco Rubio (R-FL), applauded the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for passing the Safeguarding American Innovation Act, bipartisan legislation to help stop foreign governments, particularly China, from stealing American taxpayer-funded research and intellectual property. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), James Risch (R-ID), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Chris Coons (D-DE), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), John Barrasso (R-WY), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Rick Scott (R-FL), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), James Lankford (R-OK), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) are cosponsors of the legislation.

Portman and Carper, as Chairman and Ranking Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), led a year-long investigation into this issue culminating in a bipartisan report and hearing that detailed how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s military and economy over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it. 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 for China’s economic and military gain. This legislation will ensure that the federal government is taking decisive action to safeguard American innovation. 

This legislation also addresses the findings of PSI’s February 2019 report, which highlighted the Department of Education’s lack of enforcement of foreign gift reporting at U.S. colleges and universities, which the department admitted was “historically lax.” This bill gives the department increased authority to enforce foreign gift reporting rules and lowers the reporting threshold to increase transparency and prevent foreign interference on U.S. campuses. 

“The Endless Frontier Act makes a more than $100 billion investment in national security and technological innovation at the National Science Foundation (NSF), so we must include guardrails to ensure that the American taxpayer does not unwittingly fuel the rise of China. We cannot continue to allow our adversaries to steal taxpayer-funded research and innovation to the detriment of hard-working Americans. That’s why I applaud my colleagues on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for passing the bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act, which takes decisive action to safeguard taxpayer-funded research and hold countries like China accountable for their actions,” said Portman. “For nearly two decades, as we detailed in the November 2019 PSI report, the federal government has been asleep at the wheel while foreign governments have exploited the openness of our education system and bought access and influence on our school campuses. This bill will help us stop foreign governments from stealing our research and innovation so that American taxpayer-funded research will be used to level the playing to create jobs for hard-working Americans. Once the Safeguarding American Innovation Act is included in the Endless Frontier Act, this legislative body will be doing everything possible to make sure that American taxpayer investments in scientific innovation benefit hard-working Americans, not our global competitors.”

“Protecting innovation is vital to ensuring American businesses can compete and win in the global economy,” said Carper. “But as Senator Portman and I detailed in our 2019 report, the Chinese government for decades has been exploiting the open nature of our research community by recruiting American scientists and blatantly stealing U.S. taxpayer-funded research for their own economic benefit. And as Senator Portman and Chairman Peters agreed upon during the hearing today, the bill will require some necessary changes before it becomes law. I look forward to working with Senator Portman and Chairman Peters on making those necessary changes, and as our PSI Report found, this theft of our research has gone largely unanswered by our federal agencies and has helped generate much of China’s recent growth in geopolitical and economic power. This bipartisan, commonsense legislation will help safeguard American research and ensure that taxpayer-funded innovation is not stolen by competitors. Thank you to Senators Portman and Rubio for their work on this issue, and I am proud that this important measure is one step’s closer to the President’s desk.” 

“I thank my colleagues on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs for passing this important bill, which seeks to hold those individuals who are stealing U.S. research funded by American taxpayers accountable,” Rubio said. “We must ensure adequate transparency and reporting requirements are in place as malign foreign actors, including the Chinese government and Communist Party, continue to steal U.S. intellectual property and trade secrets.” 

This bipartisan legislation will protect American research and IP from global competitors by:

  • Punishing individuals who intentionally fail to disclose foreign support on federal grant applications, with penalties ranging from fines and imprisonment for not more than five years or both and a five-year prohibition on receiving a federal grant;
  • Strengthening the Student and Exchange Visitor Program by requiring the State Department’s exchange program sponsors to have safeguards against unauthorized access to sensitive technologies and report to State if an exchange visitor will have access to sensitive technologies;
  • Strengthening the State Department’s authority to deny visas to certain foreign nationals seeking access to sensitive technologies when it is contrary to U.S. national security and economic security interests of the United States;
  • Mandating a standardized U.S. government grant process by authorizing the Office of Management and Budget to work with federal grant-making agencies to standardize the grant application process; share information about grantees; and create a U.S. government-wide database of federal grantees; and
  • Lowering the reporting threshold for U.S. schools and universities receiving foreign gifts from $250,000 to $50,000 and giving the Department of Education authority to punish schools that fail to properly report.

The bill text can be found here