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House passes bill to allow DHS to ban foreign contractors over supply chain concerns
The House on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow the Homeland Security secretary to block the agency from working with foreign tech companies whose products or services are believed to pose a potential threat to the U.S.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), would give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief the authority to review and ban agreements with foreign contractors over supply chain concerns. Lawmakers and experts fear that the technology or software included in the imported products could be manipulated by hackers for future cyberattacks.
The agency would typically be required to notify contractors about a ban, and give them the opportunity to object to the measure or make changes to address DHS's concerns. However, that requirement would be dropped if the contractor was believed to pose a significant enough threat.
The measure comes after federal officials banned or raised concerns over products from foreign firms like Russia's Kaspersky Labs and China's ZTE and Huawei.
"There is no question that nation states and criminal actors are constantly trying to exploit U.S. government and private sector systems to steal information or insert potentially harmful hardware or software," King said ahead of the vote. "The recent cases involving Kaspersky, ZTE and Huawei underscore the threats posed to the federal supply chain and the urgency in developing stronger mechanisms to secure it."
DHS banned the federal government from using Kaspersky software earlier this year, and federal contractors will also soon be required to stop using the anti-virus software.
Kaspersky has challenged the ban, but a federal judge earlier this year threw out the companies' lawsuits over the measure. Arguments in appeals court will begin later this month.
ZTE also became a hot-button issue for the Trump administration and lawmakers earlier this year, after President Trump announced that he wanted to end the Commerce Department's ban on the Chinese telecommunications firm.
Lawmakers from both parties opposed the move and passed measures to keep the ban in place; the Trump administration officially lifted the ban in July.
The bill's passage on Tuesday comes as the White House is believed to be preparing a pair of executive orders addressing supply chain concerns.
One would allow the Commerce Department to halt transactions between U.S. and overseas telecommunication firms over national security concerns, while the other would alter how the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reviews foreign investments in the telecom industry.