Pentagon Grant to U.S. University That Feeds China Military Research Comes Under Congressional Microscope

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June 1, 2023

Lawmakers are investigating a New York university that received a million-dollar Pentagon grant for missile research it conducts alongside an institution with ties to the Chinese military.

The House Select Committee on China is investigating Alfred University’s partnership with China’s University of Geosciences in Wuhan, which conducts classified military research for China’s army. The Department of Defense recently awarded Alfred University $13.5 million to study hypersonic missiles. Because the University of Geosciences "performs similar research" for China’s People’s Liberations Army (PLA), lawmakers say Alfred risks exposing sensitive military information to Beijing.

"You are conducting advanced, hypersonic weapons-related research while actively partnering with a Chinese university that performs similar research for the PLA," the House Select Committee on China wrote in a Wednesday letter to Alfred University president Mark Zupan, a copy of which was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. "It is vital to U.S. national interests that sensitive military research is safeguarded from our foreign adversaries."

The investigation marks the opening salvo in the House Select Committee on China’s larger drive to protect sensitive research from falling into China’s hands, according to committee sources briefed on the matter. Congressional investigators are examining a host of American universities that maintain ties to China while also working on Pentagon projects. Stanford University, for instance, has accepted more than $27 million from Chinese donors since the beginning of 2021, while also performing sensitive research for the Pentagon.

The grant is of particular concern to the House committee due to its focus on hypersonic missiles, an advanced military technology in which China has been heavily investing. Lawmakers are concerned that this sensitive research project is susceptible to the Communist regime’s espionage operations, which are known to target American universities engaged in sensitive military projects.

Alfred University also hosts a chapter of the Confucius Institute, a Chinese Communist Party-backed program that Beijing uses to peddle influence on, and steal intellectual property from, American universities.

Many American colleges have shut down their Confucius Institutes due to spy concerns and an impending federal order that bars the federal government from awarding research projects to any university hosting a Confucius Institute. That ban will become effective in October of this year, raising questions about why the Pentagon decided to fund a school that is still hosting a CCP outpost.

"Unless Alfred University closes its Confucius Institute or receives a waiver, this grant will be in violation of the law," the House committee wrote, noting that the school’s Pentagon grant is scheduled to run through 2027.

The committee sent a similar letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, warning him that the "DOD is funding advanced, hypersonic weapons-related research at an American university that actively partners with a Chinese university that performs similar research for the PLA."

Lawmakers ordered both the school and Pentagon to provide them with a trove of internal communications related to the research project and Alfred University’s ties to CCP entities. This includes "all documents and information regarding Alfred University’s Confucius Institute," as well as information about projects the school is conducting alongside China’s University of Geosciences.

The Pentagon must now disclose to the committee exactly how it is working to stop China from stealing sensitive research contracted out to American schools. Defense Department officials will also have to brief the House China committee on these efforts.

With the federal ban on Confucius Institute’s scheduled to take effect later this year, the Pentagon is offering to grant some schools waivers, meaning that they can continue to host Chinese embassies while still receiving federal dollars, the Free Beacon first reported in April.

Many of America’s top colleges have been hesitant to cut ties with China because the country donates millions to their research projects. American schools have taken in $426 million from China since 2011, with much of this money fueling research projects.

The University of Delaware, which houses the Biden Institute, since 2017 has taken more than $6 million from the country.