The Pentagon has prohibited the sale of Huawei and ZTE phones on U.S military bases worldwide, taking aim at two of China’s most prominent technology firms as concerns swell over the potential national security risks posed by their products.
“Huawei and ZTE devices may pose an unacceptable risk to Department’s personnel, information and mission,” U.S. Department of Defense spokesman Maj. Dave Eastburn said in a statement. “In light of this information, it was not prudent for the Department’s exchanges to continue selling them to DoD personnel.”
The order doesn’t stop military personnel from using or bringing the phones on base, but service members “should be mindful of the security risks posed by the use of Huawei devices, regardless of where they were purchased,” the Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday.
Security reasons prevented the Pentagon from discussing specifics involving the potential threats, the spokesman added.
U.S. officials have repeatedly expressed concerns about either company in recent months, including the possibility that their products are being used by Beijing to surveil Americans.
“Chinese commercial technology is a vehicle for the Chinese government to spy on United States federal agencies, posing a severe national security threat,” Rep. Michael Conaway, Texas Republican, said when he introduced a bill in January that would ban the U.S. government from doing business with either company.
“Allowing Huawei, ZTE, and other related entities access to U.S. government communications would be inviting Chinese surveillance into all aspects of our lives,” Mr. Conaway said.
Senators and senior Trump administration officials subsequently raised concerns over both firms during a February hearing on worldwide threats amid questions involving either’s placement in the U.S. market.
“We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks,” FBI Director Christopher Wray testified at the hearing.
The Pentagon’s ban was formally issued last Friday, and the prohibition applies to selling phones, mobile internet modems and other wireless products manufactured by either of the two major Chinese tech firms, The Washington Post reported.
“Huawei’s products are sold in 170 countries worldwide and meet the highest standards of security, privacy and engineering in every country we operate globally including the U.S.,” Huawei spokesman Charles Zinkowski said in a statement addressing the Pentagon’s announcement.
“We remain committed to openness and transparency in everything we do and want to be clear that no government has ever asked us to compromise the security or integrity of any of our networks or devices,” Huawei said.
Representatives for ZTE did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment, and the company did not respond publicly on the Pentagon’s ban as of early Thursday. ZTE previously said it was “proud of the innovation and security of our products in the U.S. market.”
A combined total of 2,400 Huawei and ZTE phones were sold on U.S. military bases in 2017, CNN reported, citing Pentagon statistics.