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Senators Ask GAO to Review BIS Export Controls on Advanced Chips

The leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Spending Oversight have asked the Government Accountability Office to assess the effectiveness of new export controls aimed at preventing China from obtaining advanced computing chips and the equipment to manufacture them.

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In a Jan. 23 letter to the GAO, Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., the subcommittee’s ranking member and chair, respectively, wrote that restrictions the Bureau of Industry and Security released in October 2022 and expanded a year later (see 2310170055) are a “tangible and positive step” in protecting the United States’ technological edge in semiconductors, but “their effectiveness will ultimately be determined by the private sector’s knowledge of and compliance with such controls, the U.S. government’s ability to implement and enforce the controls, and support from allied and partner governments.”

The senators asked the GAO to study the progress BIS has made in implementing the controls, whether any challenges have arisen, including for the private sector, and whether additional actions are needed to improve compliance. They also want to know whether other U.S. agencies and U.S. allies and partners are helping BIS enforce the controls, and whether allies and partners are using their own export controls to curb the flow of advanced chips to China.

The senators asked the GAO to provide an interim briefing on its findings within 180 days, and a written report by Dec. 1. They noted that the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission recommended such a review in its 2023 annual report to Congress (see 2311140057).

Chipmakers and semiconductor trade groups have complained about the complexity of the controls (see 2302020034), and Micron has complained about China’s recent sales restrictions on its products (see 2307070050). The House Select Committee on China recently sent letters to the chief executives of U.S. chipmakers Intel, Nvidia and Micron Technology asking them to testify before the panel about the challenges their industry faces (see 2401120071). The committee has not yet announced a hearing date.

The Emerging Threats Subcommittee had been scheduled to hold a Jan. 23 hearing on improving export controls enforcement, but a subcommittee spokesperson said the hearing was postponed because Romney was "under the weather" (see 2401230060). A new hearing date hasn't been announced.