The Department of Defense (DoD) has published a list of foreign entities engaged in what the Pentagon views as “problematic activity” – including interfering or influencing DoD-funded research and development (R&D) efforts at higher education institutions – in advance of additional restrictions that begin next year on funding academic research that does not guard against foreign influence.

As mandated by the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year (FY) 2019, the list details practices and behaviors that increase the likelihood that DoD-funded R&D efforts will be misappropriated to the detriment of national or economic security, or be subject to violations of research integrity or foreign government interference.

Foreign entities named in the memo include China, Korea, Russia and Iran.

“Protecting and maintaining the integrity of our research enterprise is integral to national security,” Heidi Shyu, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USD(R&E)), said in a press release.

“The publication of these foreign entities underscores our commitment to ensuring the responsible use of Federal research funding and safeguarding our critical technologies from exploitation or compromise,” she said.

According to the memorandum, many in the academic community have been unaware of the research security risks associated with some foreign governments, including through foreign government-sponsored talent recruitment programs. Since the Fall of 2019, the Department’s research and engineering directorate has sent letters to the academic community citing their concern about foreign influences in academia.

As a result of the concerns, beginning Aug 9, 2024, the DoD is prohibited from providing funding or awarding individuals – in this case, the academic community – participating in a malign foreign government-sponsored talent recruitment program or failing to have a policy addressing such programs, according to the memo.

In addition, the memorandum also lays out three research project proposals for conducting risk-based security reviews:

  • Ensure the security of DoD-funded fundamental research;
  • Ensure that covered individuals fully disclose information that can reveal potential conflicts of interest and commitments; and
  • Provide clear messaging to collegiate institutions pursuing DoD research funds on acceptable and encouraged behavior.

The department will also require that all fundamental DoD-funded research projects undergo a thorough review process to identify potential conflicts of interest and commitments in direct connection to foreign influence. Alongside the memo, the DoD also published a guide to assist program managers in reviewing fundamental research proposals for signs of potential foreign influence and appropriately mitigating risk.

The policies outlined in the memorandum allow the USD(R&E) to work with the Office of Science and Technology and the rest of the Federal government to ensure that the Federal government also implements a consistent risked-based review process of government-funded research.

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