A senior House Republican wants to hold the Obama administration accountable for what he says are violations of law limiting the sharing of space technology with China.
Rep. Frank R. Wolf, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and related agencies, said in an interview that a law passed in April restricts technology-sharing with China following attempts by Chinese hackers to steal government secrets.
"They can't just flout the law," Mr. Wolf, Virginia Republican, said of the administration. "We see what China's doing."
In response, Mr. Wolf said the Appropriations Committee's fiscal 2012 Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill passed on Wednesday contains provisions that would cut funds for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) by 55 percent, from $6.6 million to $3 million.
Asked about the funding cuts, OSTP spokesman Rick Weiss said the White House will work with Congress to develop the bill before it reaches the president's desk. "This is the first of many steps in a budget process that will play out over the course of the next several months," he said.
The committee left the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Agency's budget largely intact, despite concerns about cooperation between the space agency and its Chinese counterpart.
Mr. Wolf, whose subcommittee funds both OSTP and NASA, among other government agencies, said that the technology office had violated a provision of the April budget compromise legislation that blocked OSTP from cooperating with Chinese corporations.
"The language is very clear, and was signed by the president," Mr. Wolf said. "It says what they're not supposed to do."
OSTP Director John Holdren told the subcommittee that the prohibition on activity between his office and Chinese companies was not fully constitutional, and would not be observed when it conflicts with the president's negotiating power.
"The prohibition should not be read as prohibiting interactions that are part of the president's authority to conduct negotiations," Mr. Holdren said during a subcommittee hearing July 7. "We will be looking at that on a case-by-case basis."
The provision, first introduced in a continuing resolution funding law passed in April as part of the budget compromise, and included in the 2012 spending bill, stated that no NASA or OSTP funds can be used "to develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement or execute a bilateral policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company."
The legislation report said the cutoff was the result of the "unabated threat posed to United States interest by China." It noted that Chinese attempts to obtain information from government agencies and private corporations had made Chinese firms "unsuitable partners for American space and science initiatives."
The Appropriations Committee's report bolsters Mr. Wolf's charge that OSTP violated the law.
"OSTP has chosen to disregard a strong and unambiguous legislative prohibition on bilateral engagement with China or Chinese-owned companies," the report said. "OSTP's behavior demonstrates a lack of respect for the policy and oversight roles of the Congress."
Mr. Wolf also said Mr. Holdren's three-week trip to China was an apparent violation of the provision.
The Virginia congressman previously criticized NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. for visiting China in a bid to cooperate on joint space projects. China's military, the People's Liberation Army, runs the Chinese space program and has sought to steal state secrets from the United States multiple times, he said.
"The U.S. has no business cooperating with the PLA to help develop its space program," he said in May.
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