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Senators Urge GAO to Look at National Security Risks Posed by Contracting Conflicts of Interest

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Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., have asked the Government Accountability Office to assess the national security risks associated with consulting firms doing business with both the U.S. government and the Chinese government and its affiliates.

“Although firms doing business for the Chinese government or its associates may argue that structural divisions between corporate entities servicing the Chinese and American governments, respectively, are sufficient to eliminate security risks or conflicts of interest posed by their work – we remain concerned that information sharing within these companies may result in Chinese entities accessing or taking advantage of firms’ access to U.S. government data, classified or otherwise,” the lawmakers wrote in a Tuesday letter to Gene Dodaro, GAO’s comptroller general.

According to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the lawmakers’ request to GAO builds on a bipartisan law that seeks to prevent conflicts of interest in the federal contracting sector.

The senators are asking GAO to evaluate the extent to which federal agencies gather information on contracts carried out on behalf of the Chinese government by consulting companies that have contracts with the U.S. government. The pair suggests identifying contract clauses, information and procedures that agencies use to evaluate and address organizational conflicts of interest when awarding consulting contracts.

The congressional watchdog was also requested to pinpoint measures agencies take to track the compliance of contractors with contract terms, clauses and conditions meant to address identified conflicts of interest.