The White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has requested that Congress delay the ban on federal contractors using Huawei equipment. The ban, part of the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA), will prohibit contractors for the federal government from using Huawei equipment over concerns that the company’s tech could be used to spy on Americans on behalf of the Chinese government.
The request was formally made in a letter by Russell T. Vought, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, according to the Wall Street Journal, and was sent to Vice President Mike Pence, as well as nine different members of Congress. The NDAA has already been signed by President Donald Trump.
“This is about ensuring that companies who do business with the U.S. government or receive federal grants and loans have time to extricate themselves from doing business with Huawei and other Chinese tech companies listed in the NDAA,” Jacob Wood, a spokesperson for the White House OMB, told the Wall Street Journal in a statement.
All agencies of the federal government will be banned from using Huawei equipment later this year, but the ban for federal contractors and organisations seeking government grants doesn’t take effect for another two years. The White House’s requested extension for contractors would push the ban to four years out.
The letter from OMB cites the detrimental impact on U.S. contractors in rural areas, which disproportionately use Huawei gear because of its low cost. The letter from OMB went on to explain that “a number of agencies have heard significant concerns from a wide range of potentially impacted stakeholders who would be affected.”
Huawei has been at the heart of the U.S. government’s broader fight with China over everything from trade deficits to privacy. President Trump made China a central campaign issue in the 2016 election and he’s largely delivered on that issue according to his followers, despite the sometimes negative impact on Americans.
Farmers, for instance, are bearing the brunt of retaliatory tariffs placed on American agricultural goods by China. But President Trump has promised huge welfare checks to the farmers in a bid to keep them happy. Trump has promised $21 billion in aid to the farmers. Notably, the president has promised no such relief for American companies that will need to buy new equipment to keep getting federal contracts.
It remains unclear how likely Congress is to pick up the extension, nor whether Congress is likely to do anything at all between now and the 2020 presidential election. And as if we needed another reason to panic, Congress has to pass a budget by this September to avoid the potential of another shutdown like the one that President Trump caused in late 2018.
Let’s just say we’re not getting our hopes up that things will be any different this time around.