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Press Release Published: Feb 29, 2024

Mace Opens Hearing on GSA Compliance with Procurement Bans

WASHINGTON – Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology, and Government Innovation Chairwoman Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) delivered opening remarks at a subcommittee hearing titled “Made in China: Is GSA Complying with Purchasing Restrictions?.”In her opening statement, Subcommittee Chairwoman Mace highlighted how the recent Inspector General (IG) report found the General Services Administration (GSA) failed to comply with procurement bans. She continued by calling on GSA to fix the problems the IG identified and ensure going forward that it complies with laws that promote safe purchasing. 

Below are Subcommittee Chairwoman Mace’s remarks as prepared for delivery.

Good afternoon and welcome to this hearing of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology and Government Innovation.

The American people and those of us who serve on their behalf here in Congress are angry that foreign adversaries such as China are using cyberwarfare to attack and weaken our Nation.

Earlier this month, for instance, a federal cybersecurity advisory confirmed that PRC state-sponsored actors are “pre-positioning for possible disruptive cyberattacks against U.S. critical infrastructure.” These actors are hacking into computer systems then lying low and undetected for years – a tactic termed “living off the land” – so that they can be activated to wreak havoc should a major conflict with the United States arise.

The threat is real. But there are laws on the books designed to create safeguards. This includes restrictions on what the federal government buys. Each year, Uncle Sam purchases about $100 billion in IT products and services alone. Numerous bans and prohibitions exist to both further U.S. trade policy objectives and to ensure national security.

No agency has a more crucial role in ensuring these bans and prohibitions are enforced than the General Services Administration.  GSA serves as the primary government-wide purchasing agent. It manages tens of billions of dollars in annual contract spending.

That brings us to the GSA Office of Inspector General report that is the subject of today’s hearing.

Last month, the OIG issued a report entitled, “GSA Purchased Chinese-Manufactured Videoconference Cameras and Justified it Using Misleading Market Research.”

The report raises issues we’ll explore today.

The IG found that GSA, via two separate purchases occurring in March and October of 2022, bought 150 videoconference cameras made in the PRC, in violation of the Trade Agreements Act, or TAA. With limited exceptions, the TAA prohibits agencies from buying products made in China or other non-TAA compliant nations, such as Russia and Iran.

Security vulnerabilities with these specific cameras were documented by a private security company and the subject of a CISA public alert.

The IG found that the cameras were bought by a GSA contracting officer who relied on “egregiously flawed information” provided by her own GSA colleagues. This was “inaccurate, incomplete and misleading market research” indicating no other cameras were available for purchase that could meet the agency’s need.

According to the IG report, the GSA CIO, who is testifying today, signed off on both camera purchases, though he later acknowledged he did so without having reviewed the market research performed by his staff.

Mr. Shive also signed off on the GSA Management Response to the IG report.  That response did not contest the factual narrative laid out in the report or the IG’s assertion that the purchase of the cameras was a violation of the TAA.

GSA in fact concurred with nearly all the IG’s recommendations, including that the GSA Administrator should, “take appropriate action against GSA IT and GSA IDT personnel to address the misleading information provided to the contracting officer…”

However, GSA has since provided arguments and documents to committee staff that challenge key elements of the IG report — including that the camera purchases violated the law.

So, we will hear their side of the story today. And I hope we can learn why it was omitted from GSA’s Management Response to the IG report.

More broadly, I hope GSA can give us some assurance today that its going to fix the problems the IG identified and ensure going forward that its complying with laws that promote safe purchasing. 

With that, I will now yield to Ranking Member Connolly for his opening statement.