Former congressman and Under Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy said lawmakers need to be focused “like a bulldog on a bone” when ensuring the U.S. is positioned to compete with China’s tech ambitions.
Lawmakers and the Biden administration need to adopt a more aggressive strategy to keep U.S. companies from developing or manufacturing strategic technologies in mainland China — including using Congress’s power of the purse to nudge reluctant firms away from Beijing’s orbit — a former lawmaker and government official said during an event hosted by the American Security Project think tank on Wednesday.
Patrick Murphy — a Democrat who served Pennsylvania in the House from 2007 to 2011 and as Under Secretary of the Army during the Obama administration — said the federal government should work to “decouple our strategic assets that are being developed by American companies in China because they will be stolen.”
Murphy said this should include taking additional steps to restrict access to generative artificial intelligence technologies produced by U.S. firms, which he called “a direct threat to our national security” if they fall into the hands of the wrong country.
The U.S. has already imposed some export controls on China around the use of semiconductors, and Commerce Department officials are reportedly considering new restrictions on exports of AI chips to the country.
“I'm not saying we have to even decouple our whole economy against China,” Murphy added, but he asserted “we have to be smart” when it comes to Beijing’s history of stealing intellectual property from other companies and using it to bolster its own ambitions.
To help the U.S. maintain a technological advantage over China, Murphy said lawmakers and officials need to create stronger public-private partnerships that include “some type of value set” to encourage firms to consider national security when developing their products.
“If you're selling to Uncle Sam or to the Department of Defense, you can't go and sell products that are going to be developed in China that are going to come back and hurt Uncle Sam,” Murphy said, adding “that carrot and stick need to come from a national strategy and has to be tied to the power of the purse here in the United States.”
Murphy noted that he previously served on the congressionally mandated Cyberspace Solarium Commission alongside Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., who now chairs the House Select Committee on China. Murphy said Gallagher and the panel’s lawmakers have a unique opportunity to make sure Congress is focused “like a bulldog on a bone when it comes to great power competition” with Beijing, and can use their power “to make sure that we are aligned, and really be a little bit more nimble in creating these public-private partnerships.
“We have to really lean on the Department of Defense, we have to lean on the best and the brightest in our country to come together to realize that we can't let this incredible technology — like generative AI — go into the wrong hands,” he added.