The Pentagon is being granted a temporary waiver from the US government’s ban on contractors using Huawei and other Chinese-made telecommunications equipment, according to a memo cited by Defense News.
The decision provides a deadline of 30 September for companies with business ties to the Department of Defense (DoD), who have requested a grace period to comply with the new regulations amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its fallout for the global economy.
In a memo to Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord, the Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe granted the Pentagon a temporary waiver for US national security interests, and to ultimately assess a broader waiver request from the DoD.
Ellen Lord had earlier urged the need for a temporary waiver from the ban to allow the DoD to continue its procurement actions, such as equipping and feeding troops.
“You stated that DoD’s statutory requirement to provide for the military forces needed to deter war and protect the security of our country is critically important to national security… Therefore, the procurement of goods and services in support of DoD’s statutory mission is also in the national security interests of the United States,” Ratcliffe is cited as saying in the memo.
With respect to the broader waiver, Ratcliffe urged Ellen Lord to provide more detailed information about potential contracting plans involving alternatives to the banned Chinese companies.
In line with a 2019 National Defense Authorization Act signed by the Donald Trump administration citing alleged national security concerns, the new regulations were to take effect as of 13 August 2020, preventing government agencies from signing contracts with companies that use equipment, services and systems from Huawei, ZTE, Hytera, Hikvision and Dahua, or any of their subsidiaries and affiliates.
The cut-off date had many contractors voicing concerns over the challenging deadline, stating that the companies on the blacklist are global market leaders in their respective categories, with finding alternatives presenting a hurdle during a time already riddled with coronavirus-related woes.
The leaders of the National Defense Industrial Association and the Professional Services Council had earlier voiced requests for the deadline for 889 implementation to be moved, citing both far-reaching implications of the new rules and underscoring the need to focus on recovering from the crippling impact of the health crisis.
In May, Ellen Lord had lobbied with lawmakers for more time to comply with the government ban to prevent jeopardizing the defense industrial base.
“The thought that somebody in six or seven levels down in the supply chain could have one camera in a parking lot and that would invalidate one of our major primes being able to do business with us gives us a bit of pause,” Lord was cited as telling a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
The US government has routinely accused Huawei, ZTE, and more recently, TikTok owner ByteDance and WeChat's Tencent Holdings, as well as numerous other Chinese tech firms of spying on behalf of Beijing.
One of the world’s biggest producers of smartphones and network equipment, Huawei has been at the heart of simmering US-Chinese tension over alleged security concerns, with Washington blacklisting the tech giant and insistently urging other countries to follow suit.
All accusations have been consistently rejected by both Huawei and Beijing.