July 02,2019

Grassley Receives Response from DoD on Foreign Threats to Taxpayer-Funded Research

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) received a response from the Department of Defense (DoD) to an April 1, 2019 letter he sent regarding potential threats to taxpayer-funded research at DoD.
In his initial letter, Grassley sought details about the steps the department takes to identify foreign threats to research prior to and after awarding grants. He inquired about the vetting process in place for recipients of DoD funds. Grassley also requested data on foreign actors’ attempts to influence or steal research funded by the department, the number of times researchers working on Department-funded research failed to disclose foreign contributions and whether any referrals were made to the Inspector General or Justice Department.
“Our government must take all reasonable and necessary steps to protect the integrity of taxpayer-funded research, by ensuring that intellectual property created here is not stolen by agents of foreign governments and that researchers are properly vetted for foreign affiliations, foreign financial contributions and other potential background issues,” Grassley said. “While I appreciate the timely response from DoD, it’s alarming that it doesn’t include critical investigative data regarding attempts by foreign entities to steal American intellectual property and the failure of researchers to disclose foreign affiliations.”
Top take-aways of the letter include:
  • ·         DoD does not vet all researchers working on taxpayer-funded projects;
  • ·         On March 20, 2019, DoD required all grant applicants to submit information about key personnel working on projects funded by the taxpayer, including all current projects and any future support the researchers have applied to receive. That policy now applies across all departmental research programs;
  • ·         DoD failed to provide requested data about reviews and audits to identify potential violations concerning foreign affiliations and undisclosed financial contributions; and,
  • ·         DoD failed to provide data about investigative inquiries to identify potential violations concerning foreign affiliations, undisclosed financial contributions and instances in which researchers stole intellectual property from department-supported research.
Text of the letter is available here.
Grassley is a leading voice in the effort to protect the integrity of taxpayer-funded research. In addition to his inquiries to DoD, Grassley also pressed the National Science Foundation (NSF) on foreign threats to taxpayer-funded research, as well as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), specifically on its vetting processes. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee last Congress, Grassley held a hearing on threats specifically posed by China. On June 5, 2019, Chairman Grassley held a Finance hearing on foreign threats to taxpayer-funded research and held a classified member-level briefing on the same subject.