Funding bill provision discourages federal purchasing of Chinese IT equipment

The provision in the six-month stopgap measure states that NASA, the National Science Foundation and the Commerce and Justice Departments may not use funds to purchase an information technology (IT) system unless the head of the agency consults with the FBI to determine whether there is any "associated risk of cyber-espionage or sabotage" with the system, including if it is "produced, manufactured or assembled by one or more entities that are owned, directed or subsidized by the People's Republic of China." 

The FBI, or another "appropriate agency," would then decide whether the purchase of the IT system "is in the national interest of the United States" and report that finding to Congress.

This is an attempt by lawmakers to crack down on alleged Chinese hacking campaigns, he said.

"Congress has stayed out of the fight over Chinese espionage," Baker told The Hill. "This is probably the first, and probably not the last, congressional effort to deal with cyber espionage."

"We're seeing fallout from the problems that Chinese hacking has caused," he added.

Over the past year, multiple reports have surfaced about Chinese hacking campaigns targeted at U.S. companies.

In a report released last month, information security firm Mandiant said it found that more than 100 U.S. companies have been targeted by an elite Chinese hacking unit. Chinese officials have fiercely denied the accusations.

President Obama and other top administration officials have called on China to address cybersecurity threats. Tom Donilon, the president's national security adviser, said in a speech earlier this month that U.S. officials have urged China to recognize the scope of the problem and take urgent steps to address it.

The leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), have blamed China for stealing millions of dollars of valuable intellectual property from American companies. The two also launched a year-long investigation into Chinese telecommunications-equipment-makers Huawei and ZTE and whether they had ties to the Chinese government. The report concluded that Huawei and ZTE pose a threat to U.S. national security and should be barred from doing business in the U.S.

Baker said he believes Congress will likely narrow the provision's definition of information systems in the future, but it will largely serve as the baseline language for future funding bills.

The continuing resolution will keep government agencies funded through Sept. 30.