Bipartisan House Coalition Pushes to Boost "Rip and Replace Program"
Program To Use Covid-19 Relief Funds
In a united effort to enhance national security, a bipartisan House coalition is working to redirect COVID-19 relief money towards bolstering a program aimed at replacing equipment made by Chinese Communist Party-affiliated companies.
Earlier this year, formal resolutions were introduced by lawmakers under the Defend Our Networks Act. The present initiative now follows through on network-defending legislation called the Supply Chain Reimbursement Program, known as the "Rip and Replace Program," which was passed by Congress in 2020 and operates under the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
New lawmaker efforts provide reimbursement to smaller communications providers across the country for expenses related to the removal, replacement, and disposal of equipment manufactured by Huawei Technologies Company and ZTE Corporation. The close ties between these companies and the Chinese government pose significant risks to U.S. national security.
Currently, there are approximately 24,000 pieces of Chinese-made communications equipment scattered throughout telecom networks in the United States. The disposal of this equipment is crucial in safeguarding the country against potential spying and other threats. However, the Rip and Replace Program is facing a shortfall of $3.08 billion, leaving it able to cover only 40% of eligible applicants' expenses. This funding gap puts many rural areas at risk of losing essential communication services. The program has already received 126 applications beyond its allocated budget.
To address this issue, Rep. Ashley Hinson of Iowa, along with Select Committee on the CCP Chairman Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, and Democratic ranking member Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, introduced the Defend our Networks Act on Monday. This legislation aims to identify the necessary funding to close the budget shortfall in the FCC's Rip and Replace Program. It proposes transferring $3.08 billion in unobligated emergency COVID relief funds to support the program.
Hinson emphasized the need for strict measures, stating:
"If communication flows through Huawei or ZTE equipment, it should be treated as if it is being downloaded back to a server in Beijing with a full access pass for the CCP regime,” as he was quoted by media reports.
The bipartisan effort comes as part of a broader push to combat the Chinese Communist Party's influence in critical sectors of the U.S. economy. The House China Committee has been closely monitoring CCP attempts to steal American agricultural intellectual property, highlighting the need for enhanced protections.
The Defend Our Networks Act has gained support from both sides of the aisle, as lawmakers recognize the imperative of safeguarding national security and protecting vulnerable communities. By redirecting COVID-19 relief funds to the Rip and Replace Program, Congress aims to expedite the removal of Chinese-made communications equipment and ensure the continued provision of reliable and secure communication services across the country.
This bipartisan effort represents a significant step towards strengthening national security and countering potential threats posed by Chinese Communist Party-affiliated companies. As the Defend Our Networks Act gains traction, it is expected to bring relief to eligible applicants and bolster the protection of vital communication networks throughout the United States.