DOD watchdog to evaluate 'foreign influence' in Pentagon's R&D programs

By Justin Doubleday / January 10, 2020 at 1:33 PM

The Defense Department inspector general’s office is opening an evaluation into "foreign influence" on the Pentagon's research and development programs, as officials worry about the extent of China's reach into U.S. universities, laboratories and companies.

"The objective of this evaluation is to determine whether the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD[R&E]) is monitoring and mitigating foreign influence into the DOD's research and development programs," the DOD IG's office said today in announcing the evaluation, which will begin this month.

The office will evaluate "selected" R&E entities, including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Missile Defense Agency, the Defense Innovation Unit, and Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, as well as the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, according to the announcement.

The new assessment begins as the Pentagon's research and development efforts in areas like hypersonic weapons, fifth-generation wireless technologies, and artificial intelligence are largely driven by what defense officials describe as a rapidly advancing Chinese military.

In response to cyber and intelligence threats from China, the Pentagon has established a "Protecting Critical Technology" task force to coordinate better ways of preventing technology exfiltration and compromise.

Meanwhile, the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act signed into law last month expands on past acquisition reforms targeting foreign adversaries like China and Russia.