Secretary Mayorkas delivered the following remarks in his keynote address at the Second Annual CFIUS Conference, hosted by the Department of the Treasury.
Thank you very much, and thank you for the too kind introduction.
My father started a manufacturing company on the outskirts of Havana, Cuba, near where he was born and grew up, and in late 1960, he lost his business to the communist takeover of that country.
My family found refuge in America – my parents, my sister, and me – and with it a deep appreciation for the liberty and self-determination only our open, rules-based, free market system can provide.
We came from a country that used state power to eviscerate property rights, expropriate businesses, and smother both economic activity and the liberty that comes with it.
We came to a country where state power is not capricious or illiberal; where government does not stamp out economic dynamism, but rather encourages innovation; and where the rights of property, both real and intellectual, are secure.
I have, therefore, a deep appreciation for our federal government’s mission to help protect the financial systems, cyberspace, and supply chains that undergird our economic and national security. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States – CFIUS – is one of the most important tools we have to do so.
Let me be clear about what I think that entails, and what it does not.
CFIUS is not, and should not be, a roadblock to growth. We know that foreign investment is crucial to the health and stability of the United States economy, as Secretary Yellen said when she opened this conference, and it contributes to our economic and technological edge. We do not weigh prospective economic benefit, or any other interest, against the risk to our national security. CFIUS does not pick winners and losers for political or other reasons unrelated to national security, and we hold all firms operating in the United States – including foreign firms – subject to the same rule of law, including export control, espionage, and labor laws.
What CFIUS is doing is uniquely and effectively bringing our nation’s national security, economic, and intelligence communities together, under one roof, to ensure that the American people, prosperity, and interests are protected in the modern threat environment.
The United States has long recognized that certain investments from foreign persons and adversarial nations can present risks to our national and homeland security. I have spoken frequently about how I think, over the past decade especially, our national and homeland security have converged.
In the 22 years since 9/11, a threat actor’s ability to attack our homeland with a bomb, a bioweapon, or a hijacking has become increasingly difficult, thanks to our continued vigilance and dedication. Our adversaries, however, including nation states and especially the People’s Republic of China, remain committed to finding new ways to attack, undermine, and weaken the national security of the United States.
They target critical supply chains through our port infrastructure and logistics companies, threatening our ability to bring food, goods, and fuel into the country. They target our computer networks through cybersecurity firms and semiconductor and chip manufacturers, threatening the security of everything from our power grids and water lines to our air traffic control centers and intensive care units. They target our defense production industry, putting our soldiers at a dangerous disadvantage on the battlefield. Most prominently, in recent years they have targeted our individual privacy and security through data mining and our telecommunications infrastructure, threatening to hold hostage anyone who has used an app or website to share sensitive medical information, send private messages, or location-share.
These are not hypothetical threats. Our world has never been more connected, and technology has never advanced as rapidly; the risk of a crippling digital or economic confrontation has never been higher.
Water will always find a crack. Those of us who serve today on the CFIUS committee are committed to ensuring our capabilities evolve alongside the evolution of our threat environment; to identifying gaps before our adversaries do; and to closing them before our adversaries can exploit them, all with the speed and at the scale that our homeland security demands.
That means deepening and sharpening CFIUS’s enforcement measures, leveraging authorities to more aggressively identify and review transactions not filed with CFIUS, and levying penalties against companies that violate their commitments to abide by CFIUS-negotiated guardrails. It means close and continuous interagency coordination, rigorous evaluation, and repeatable, predictable, effective, and efficient outcomes. It also requires a renewal of the same, bipartisan focus on our mission that helped create the Department of Homeland Security 20 years ago and inspired thousands to join our ranks.
We are all aided in these efforts by the able leadership and insight of Secretary Yellen, and by the close coordination only Paul Rosen – Assistant Treasury Secretary, CFIUS manager, and former Chief of Staff of the Department of Homeland Security – could foster.
I must say, I worked with Paul for quite a number of years, and I personally do not think that there is a more important time for CFIUS now and I say that not to necessarily suggest that CFIUS needs to lean in a particular direction, but I think it’s fair and security-focused vigilance is more important now than I can ever remember in my years at the Department of Homeland Security. And I cannot think of a better person to leads the government’s efforts than Paul Rosen, an individual whom I know so very well to not only understand the particular transactions, and to be able to analyze it when it comes before the Committee, but also, so critically, to take a strategic perspective to the work of CFIUS – to understand the convergence of national and homeland security, and to really consider all of the interests at play in making the right decisions.
In addition, under the leadership and direction of President Biden, the Committee on Foreign Investment, and the entire homeland security apparatus, is more fit for mission than ever before.
The threat landscape has evolved considerably over the past 20 years.
This week is a solemn week for all of us in, and who care about, our homeland security. This past Monday, we commemorated the 22nd anniversary of 9/11. When this Department was created, it was focused on the foreign terrorist – the individual radicalized to violence by a foreign terrorist ideology, who sought to enter the united States to do us grave harm. That threat evolved – it certainly persisted, it has never disappeared, it persisted – but was accompanied by an increasingly prominent threat of what we term in the second decade as the “homegrown violent extremist,” the individual already resident in the United States, radicalized to violence by a foreign terrorist ideology. Now, what we have, and what we see is the most prominent terrorist-related threat, is what we term the Domestic Violent Extremist – the individual here, radicalized not by a foreign terrorist ideology, but by an ideology of hate, as we most recently, tragically, witnessed in Jacksonville, Florida. A personal grievance, a false narrative, an anti-government ideology.
We’ve also seen a tremendous increase in the activity, both in terms of frequency and gravity, of the actions of foreign adverse nation-states. It really underscores – that last point underscores the criticality of the work of CFIUS to both protect our economic prosperity, to understand the value of foreign investment, but to also ensure that our national security and homeland security are all protected.
I often say that homeland security is an enterprise of partnerships. That is especially true within the realm of economic activity, where such a vast array of private enterprises develop products, services, and technologies of national security importance. All of you here today who seek foreign investment, or represent those who do, or advise those who do, have a role to play – I would even say a responsibility – to help mitigate the threat of malign economic influence, by the PRC or by others.
As you consider potential foreign investment, undertake your due diligence through a lens that examines the financial fundamentals and national security implications. Consider whether an investor has developed a cooperative posture with its home government’s initiatives, and consider how your business’s products and services may be exploited in service of those initiatives. Be transparent with us about your findings.
We share the same fundamental American economic and security values. We aim to have as little impact on business interests as national security imperatives will allow. We do not want to be an antagonist – we want to be a trusted means of support.
Key to building that trust is convenings and conversations like the one you have had today. I am grateful for Secretary Yellen, Assistant Secretary Rosen, and the entire Treasury Department team for hosting this Second Annual CFIUS Conference, and I am grateful that all of you, who are so deeply engaged in our work, were able to join us, and for your investment in the well-being of our country, and the goals of CFIUS.
Thank you all so very much.