State department reverses itself on use of Chinese computers

The chairman of a House Appropriations subcommittee on Thursday highlighted the recent retreat by the State Department from a decision to use Chinese-made computers as part of its global classified network.

"I was deeply troubled to learn that the new computers were purchased from a China-based company and that at least 900 of these computers were planned to be used as part of the classified network deployed in the United States and around the world in embassies and consulates," said Virginia Republican Frank Wolf, who chairs the panel that oversees State's budget.

Wolf decried China for efforts to spy on the United States, as well as its human rights record. He said State's plan to use the 900 computers as part of its classified network posed a security risk.

A State official told Wolf in a letter that its Bureau of Diplomatic Security is "recommending that the computers purchased last fall be utilized on unclassified systems only." The bureau will conduct other security inspections as well, the official wrote.

In late April, two commissioners from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission alerted Wolf about State's procurement of 16,000 computers from Lenovo, the Chinese company that completed a deal to buy IBM's personal-computer business last May. The acquisition makes Lenovo the third-largest PC manufacturer in the world.

The commissioners -- Larry Wortzel, a Republican, and Michael Wessel, a Democrat -- expressed concerns about State's plan to use the computers in a network linked to the Defense Department. They worried about espionage because the Chinese government has a stake in Lenovo, as it does in a majority of Chinese businesses.

"Even if these computers were put together in the United States, software, operating systems or hardware could still be modified," Wortzel said. "Therefore, we were very concerned that if Chinese intelligence could target the diplomatic communications of the State Department, it would do so."

Asked why the ownership issue mattered when the majority of the world's computers are made in China, the commissioners said Chinese intelligence officers would have been much more likely to bug the computers that they knew were going to be used to convey sensitive information on behalf of the U.S. government.

The government paid $13 million for the 16,000 computers, and they now will be used by State for unclassified purposes.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.