Eleven House Republicans have formally requested a classified briefing with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and FBI Director Christopher Wray by Oct. 6, regarding how the organizations they lead are working to counter alleged pursuits by China’s government to spy on sensitive U.S. military and national security sites.
In a new letter, shared with DefenseScoop on Tuesday before it was disseminated publicly, the lawmakers cite recent articles in the American press to warn of what they view as Beijing’s recent, intensifying expansion of espionage efforts to access secretive U.S. defense installations using human spies and technology.
“Recent reporting by the Wall Street Journal indicates that citizens of the PRC have gained or attempted to access military bases and other sensitive sites at least one hundred times over the past few years. In one case, potential agents infiltrated a U.S. Army test range, accessed numerous missile sites, and used drone technology to surveil the grounds. In another case, individuals were found scuba diving in a location home to a launch site for U.S. spy satellites and other sensitive military equipment,” the Congress members wrote.
House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party Chair Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., and Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, led the cadre in penning the letter. It’s also signed by Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., Rep. Andy Barr, R- Ky., Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Mich., Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Ill., Rep. Neal Dunn, R-Fla., Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., and Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla.
In the new letter, the lawmakers point to recent media reports that, since 2018, the Defense Department has conducted several base security reviews — including one completed late last year that honed in on the physical security of approximately 1,400 gates at U.S. military bases.
Beyond the classified briefing, the Congress members wrote to “request that [Austin and Wray] provide the Select Committee with all documents related to these security reviews as soon as possible but no later than” the Oct. 6 deadline.
Noting other examples of potential China-led espionage, they also reference the “Chinese spy balloon” that traversed skies across the continental U.S. with signals intelligence collection capabilities earlier this year before President Biden ordered it to be shot down — and separately, a case where Chinese officials allegedly tried to hack the emails of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and other senior officials in August.
“There is a growing trend of persons working on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to obtain sensitive information about America’s military, economic, and technological secrets,” the lawmakers wrote.
Citing their committee’s broad investigative authorities, the legislators call for a closed-door briefing regarding “how the DOD and FBI are protecting against these threats to U.S. military sites.”
An official on Rep. Gallagher’s team confirmed that the Pentagon acknowledged receipt of the letter on Tuesday.
Regarding whether Austin plans to agree to share requested records and engage in a classified briefing, a Pentagon spokesperson told DefenseScoop in an email: “As with all Congressional correspondence, the Department will respond directly to the author.”