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House panel says US intelligence community not equipped to address evolving Chinese threats

House panel says US intelligence community not equipped to address evolving Chinese threats
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A House committee warned Wednesday that the U.S. intelligence community is not equipped to handle evolving threats from China in the fields of technology and politics.

The House Intelligence Committee detailed its findings in an unclassified summary of a report, approved for release by the panel by voice vote, that delves into the intelligence community’s (IC) capabilities to respond to Chinese threats.

“The United States’ intelligence community has not sufficiently adapted to a changing geopolitical and technological environment increasingly shaped by a rising China and the growing importance of interlocking non-military transnational threats, such as global health, economic security, and climate change,” the committee wrote in its summary.

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“Absent a significant realignment of resources, the U.S. government and intelligence community will fail to achieve the outcomes required to enable continued U.S. competition with China on the global stage for decades to come, and to protect the U.S. health and security,” the committee added.

The report said the IC places “insufficient emphasis and focus” on “soft threats,” such as viral pandemics and climate change, and that if the IC did not modernize systems to increase focus on machine learning and artificial intelligence, national security could be undermined. 

On the technological front, “China’s continued advancements in cyber and space-based systems also introduce the likelihood of entirely new domains of conflict in the event of a contingency,” which could serve to “extend the battlefield to our political discourse, mobile devices, and the very infrastructure that modern digital communication and communities rely upon,” the lawmakers wrote.

Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffIn our 'Bizarro World' of 2020 politics, the left takes a wrong turn Greenwald slams Schiff over Biden emails on Fox Hillicon Valley: DOJ accuses Russian hackers of targeting 2018 Olympics, French elections | Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats | House Democrats slam FCC over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump MORE (D-Calif.) acknowledged the shortcomings laid bare by the report, saying in a statement that “our nation’s intelligence agencies have a lot of work to do to fully address the challenge posed by China.”

“After 9/11, we reoriented towards a mission to protect the homeland, and were very successful. But after two decades, the IC’s capacity to address hard targets like China has waned,” Schiff said. “Absent a significant and immediate reprioritization and realignment of resources, we will be ill-prepared to compete with China — diplomatically, economically, and militarily — on the global stage for decades to come.”

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Committee staff reviewed thousands of assessments and conducted hours of interviews with intelligence community officials in compiling the report, which recommended a series of steps to ensure the IC can keep up with evolving Chinese threats.

Those recommendations include the White House conducting a review of the IC’s budget, the IC prioritizing its training of employees on China-focused issues and the formation of a “bipartisan, bicameral congressional study group” to evaluate if changes need to be made.

“It’s my hope that the Intelligence Community will work hand-in-hand with the congressional oversight committees to make these necessary changes quickly. We should all have the same goal — ensuring the U.S. and its intelligence community is prepared to effectively take on the China challenge,” Schiff said.

The committee released its findings the same day House Republicans on the China Task Force rolled out their report on Chinese threats, which included over 400 policy recommendations to address issues ranging from technological competition to human rights violations.

Federal agencies also warned of dangers from China on Wednesday, with the FBI and the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) rolling out a film detailing Chinese targeting of former U.S. government employees online for the purposes of recruitment and information gathering.

The agencies warned that China and other foreign intelligence services were using professional networking social media sites to target these employees, particularly those with security clearances.

“Social media deception continues to be a popular technique for foreign intelligence services and other hostile actors to glean valuable information from unsuspecting Americans,” NCSC Director William Evanina said in a statement Wednesday. “Through this movie and other resources, we hope to raise awareness among Americans so they can guard against online approaches from unknown parties that could put them, their organization and even national security at risk.”