Today, U.S. Senator Josh Hawley introduced the Homeland Security Counterintelligence Threat Reduction Act, legislation to combat concerning national security threats posed by vulnerabilities with sensitive information in higher education institutions. U.S. Representative Mark Walker (R-N.C.) introduced the House companion.

This legislation requires the United States Secretary of Homeland Security to form a task force within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to review programs and make recommendations to improve counterintelligence vetting. The bill also requires the Secretary to convene the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Committee (HSAAC) and receive recommendations on the counterintelligence training program.

Additionally, to address counterintelligence concerns at U.S. academic institutions, the Homeland Security Counterintelligence Threat Reduction Act would make it mandatory for the Secretary to develop counterintelligence awareness training for certain faculty of colleges and universities, while also requiring enhancements to the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The SEVP modifications include mandatory counterintelligence training for appropriate SEVP certified academic faculty, the identification of sensitive fields of study, and tracking when a foreign student changes their field of study.

Senator Hawley said, “Intelligence officials have warned us that the Chinese Communist Party is using student spies to steal our technology and undermine our national security on college campuses. This bill gives the Department of Homeland Security the tools it needs to address this growing threat by increasing counterintelligence vetting for student and academic visas.”

Representative Walker said, “For too long, the United States has turned a blind eye to growing exploitation by nations like China to use our academic institutions as a method to steal sensitive and valuable information and technologies. We have a duty to protect American intellectual property. This legislation will give the Department of Homeland Security the resources necessary to properly prevent foreign abuse of our educational investments and promote America as a leader in innovation.”

As reported by Inside Higher Ed, “universities have come under increasing pressure from the FBI, the federal science agencies, the White House and members of Congress to confront what the FBI says are broad efforts by foreign actors, in particular China, to steal the fruits of U.S. government-funded research and other valuable intellectual property.”

Senator Hawley has previously asked Missouri universities to reconsider their partnerships with the Confucius Institutes, an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up.

You can read the full text of the Homeland Security Counterintelligence Threat Reduction Act here.