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U.S. Must Better Protect Tech Secrets

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AUSA
Thursday, December 05, 2019

The U.S. military must do more to protect its intellectual property and trade secrets as it moves into an era of great-power competition against countries such as China and Russia, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official said.

“We must pivot to really understand what it takes to go up against China and Russia and prevail and win,” said Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. “Our adversaries pose a threat not only to our technological advantage but our economic advantage, and economic security is national security.”

Lord was a keynote speaker Dec. 4 during a daylong Hot Topic forum on Army Acquisition and Contracting hosted by the Association of the U.S. Army.

One key area the U.S. must protect against is intellectual property theft, Lord said. “What are we going to do about the fact that we have a lot of Chinese students in our universities, we have a lot of Chinese employees in critical industry positions, and we know that our information, our data, our know-how is being exfiltrated?” she said.

Some simple ways to mitigate that include revising contract language and clauses “to make sure we don’t have known bad actors working on projects with DoD dollars,” and requiring applicants to fill out a questionnaire about organizations they belong to, Lord said.

“We tend to be very, very good at defensive measures against these types of things, but we’re not as good at offensive measures,” she said.