Biden Administration Launches New Strike Force to Target Export Control Violators
On February 16, 2023, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and US Department of Commerce (Commerce) announced a new task force aimed at safeguarding US technology by investigating and prosecuting export control violations. The Disruptive Technology Strike Force will be headed by DOJ’s National Security Division (NSD) and Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) and will coordinate with other US law enforcement officials—including from the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, and designated US Attorney’s Offices throughout the country—to “target illicit actors, strengthen supply chains and protect critical technological assets from being acquired or used by nation-state adversaries.”
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco previewed the new US law enforcement collaboration by stating, “Our goal is simple but essential—to strike back against adversaries trying to siphon our best technology.” By leveraging data analytics, intelligence, and public and private partnerships, the strike force will focus on preventing the acquisition of sensitive US technologies, such as supercomputing, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and biosciences.
This new enforcement measure follows increased efforts by the Biden Administration to prevent the theft and use of critical technology by foreign countries, particularly China, Iran, Russia, and North Korea. For instance, BIS issued two rules in October 2022 amending the Export Administration Regulations to expand export controls on China-destined semiconductor and supercomputer items. In addition, President Biden issued Executive Order 14083, directing the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to consider additional factors in its review of foreign investments for national security concerns, including a transaction’s effect on US technological leadership in several key areas such as biotechnology, biomanufacturing, and quantum computing, among others.
The Disruptive Technology Strike Force’s focus will be on investigating and prosecuting criminal violations of US export control laws while leveraging international support among US allies and the private sector. Its creation illustrates the United States’ broader focus on threats worldwide and represents an increased focus by US law enforcement to “respond to nation-states who would exploit technology to undermine [US] alliances, [US] national security and the rule of law.”
The strike force will be co-led by Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of NSD and Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement Matthew Axelrod of BIS. Axelrod has previously outlined three criteria the Office of Export Enforcement is using to track and prioritize enforcement cases: (1) criticality of technology, (2) the end users of most concern, and (3) the end uses of most concern. This new strike force signals additional scrutiny of certain transactions by US and non-US companies, and we expect it will lead to future enforcement actions. Companies and individuals, especially those involved in advanced technologies, should take stock of this new initiative and the increasing and continued use of export control restrictions.
If you have questions about the new strike force or export control restrictions, please reach out to the authors of this post, their colleagues in White Collar Defense & Investigations and Government Contracts, or your usual Arnold & Porter contact.
* Junghyun Baek contributed to this blog post. Mr. Baek is a graduate of Harvard Law School and is employed at Arnold & Porter’s Foreign Legal Consultant Office as a Law Clerk.
© Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP 2023 All Rights Reserved. This blog post is intended to be a general summary of the law and does not constitute legal advice. You should consult with counsel to determine applicable legal requirements in a specific fact situation.