Reps. James Comer, R-Ky., who is ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and committee member Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., are raising concerns over reported failures to remove equipment made by China-based Huawei from United States-based cellular communications networks despite the threat that Huawei gear poses to U.S. national security.

In letters to Defense (DoD) Secretary Lloyd Austin and Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, the lawmakers requested information on what efforts – if any – are currently underway to remove Huawei technology from U.S. cellular networks.

“Republicans are concerned that the Huawei equipment has yet to be removed and, therefore, continues to pose a threat to U.S. national security,” the lawmakers wrote.

According to the congressmen, the Federal Bureau of Investigation determined that Huawei equipment installed atop cell towers can capture and disrupt highly restricted DoD communications, including those used by U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees the country’s nuclear weapons.

In light of this danger – and longstanding concerns about Huawei’s close ties to the Chinese government – Congress in 2020 pushed for the removal and replacement of the Chinese-made cellular equipment throughout the U.S.

Some of that goal is being carried out through the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019 that was signed into law in early 2020. The law gives funding to smaller communications service providers to offset the cost of removing prohibited equipment and services from their networks and replacing them with more secure communications equipment sourced from providers other than designated Chinese equipment makers.

Congress appropriated nearly $2 billion to carry out the reimbursement program, but according to the congressmen, Huawei equipment remains installed on some U.S. cellular networks.

“Republicans are concerned about corporate espionage, theft of military intelligence, and the capabilities of cellular telecommunications to be intercepted and monitored by the Chinese Communist Party,” the lawmakers wrote.

“According to reports, Huawei telecommunications equipment is capable of intercepting not only commercial cell traffic, but also data transmitted on restricted airwaves used by the military. The ability for Huawei to monitor – and possibly interrupt – U.S. military networks is a significant national security threat,” they said.

The members of Congress requested classified briefings on the issue from DoD, and a separate briefing from the FCC, by Oct. 25.

“We are concerned that the Commission has made little to no progress on removing Huawei cellular equipment,” they said in their letter to Rosenworcel.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.