C4ISRNET: Congress May Tighten Scrutiny of U.S. Investment in Foreign Technologies

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C4ISRNET, September 1, 2022

Justin A. Chiarodo and Anthony Rapa ●

Building on recent national security initiatives to shore up the protection of U.S. critical assets from strategic adversaries (notably including China and Russia), Congress is considering new government powers to review outbound U.S. investments in certain high-technology sectors.

Inbound foreign investments in key sectors are reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). However, screening of outbound investments – a so-called “reverse CFIUS” – would be new, and could significantly impact industries ranging from aerospace and defense to fintech to pharmaceuticals.

How did we get here?

The last several years have witnessed an accelerated national security pivot from the twenty-year global war on terror to strategic competition with major state adversaries. Unclassified assessments of the U.S. national security posture reveal significant threats in domains ranging from artificial intelligence to hypersonic weapons to energy, many of which have been exacerbated by the theft of U.S. technology. The legislation proposing a “reverse CFIUS” review would seek to counter these threats by adding new controls to the flow of U.S. capital and intellectual property abroad.

The contemplated regime formally originated with the proposed National Critical Capabilities Defense Act (NCCDA), which passed the House of Representatives in February 2022 as part of the America COMPETES Act of 2022, H.R. 4521, a larger package focused on U.S. domestic semiconductor production and other aspects of U.S. competitiveness (certain elements of which, not including the NCCDA, eventually were signed into law as part of the CHIPS and Science Act in August 2022). Most notably, the NCCDA would create a Committee on National Critical Capabilities (the “Committee”), with authority to review – and block – covered outbound foreign investments.

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