The Geopolitics of 5G Supply Chain Security
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The Geopolitics of 5G Supply Chain Security
19 June @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
The development of 5G wireless networks promises to have a revolutionary impact on telecommunications technology, increasing the speed, reliability, and responsiveness of wireless networks. These enhanced capabilities will enable new possibilities for growth and business in health care, self-driving cars, automated industries, and telemedicine. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cyber and International Communications Policy at the US State Department, Robert Strayer will engage in a conversation with Bob Seely MP and Dr John Hemmings on 5G technology, looking at how Western nations are attempting to roll out this new technology in a way that does not impact national security.
By kind invitation of Bob Seely MP, the Henry Jackson Society is delighted to invite you to a discussion with Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cyber and International Communications and Information Policy at the US State Department Robert Strayer, Bob Seely MP and Dr. John Hemmings about how democratic societies can respond to the security and human rights implications of 5G wireless telecommunications and other emerging technology.
Ambassador Robert L Strayer was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cyber and International Communications and Information Policy in September 2017. Before joining the State Department, Ambassador Strayer was the general counsel for the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee under the leadership of Senator Bob Corker (R-TN). In that position, he oversaw the drafting and passage of the committee’s legislation and advised the Chairman on policy matters, including cyber security, sanctions, and digital economic policy. From 2011 to 2012, Ambassador Strayer was the director of the homeland security project at the Bipartisan Policy Center, which was led by 9/11 Commission co-chairs former Governor Tom Kean and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. During that time, he initiated and directed a task force on cyber security that published a report on eliminating cyber security information sharing impediments.
Dr. John Hemmings is Director of the Asia Studies Centre and Deputy Director of Research at the Henry Jackson Society and an Adjunct Fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. Prior to his doctoral studies, he was a visiting fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS and a research analyst at the Royal United Services Institute in Whitehall, working on Northeast Asia security and defence policies. Over the duration of his doctoral research, John has had a number of roles related to Asian foreign policy. In 2013 and 2015, he was the UK Secretariat for the UK-Japan 21st Century Group and in 2015 was invited to become a founding member of the CSCAP-EU committee, based in Brussels. He regularly provides briefings to a number of government departments including the Cabinet Office, The Ministry of Defence, Department of International Trade and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Bob Seely MP is the Member of Parliament for the Isle of Wight. He sits on the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee and is a Parliamentary Private Secretary. Seely has written academically and journalistically on strategic doctrine and foreign affairs as well as more generally on non-conventional and new forms of conflict. He has also been a research associate at the Changing Character of War Programme at the University of Oxford. In 2018, Mr Seely wrote one of the few peer-reviewed definitions of Contemporary Russian Conflict Strategy available in the West. Prior to his election in June 2017, Mr Seely served on the Afghnistan, Iraq, libya and ISIS campaigns as a member of the Armed Forces. He was awarded a Joint Commanders Commendation in 2009 and a Military MBE in the 2016 operational awards and Honours list. From 1990 to 1994, Mr Seely lived in the Soviet Union and post-Soviet states.
On 19 June, the Henry Jackson Society was pleased to welcome Ambassador Robert L Strayer, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cyber and International Communications and Information Policy at the US State Department for a discussion on the relationship between 5G technology and national security. Ambassador Strayer was joined by Dr. John Hemmings. The event was chaired by Bob Seely MP.
Ambassador Strayer opened by discussing how the current digital sphere grew out of the shared US-UK commitment to liberal democracy, the rule of the law and freedom of expression. He emphasised that new digital platforms had enriched the world and allowed for robust debate without limits on free speech and that this beneficial process will continue as the adoption of 5G allows tens of billions of new devices to connect to the internet.
However, according to Ambassador Strayer this increased connectivity also offers authoritarian governments such as China a tool for repression, mass surveillance and threatening free societies. Undermining the new 5G networks would allow authoritarian regimes a means to disrupt infrastructure and threaten the security of other states. In light of this, the US is urging other states to take a ‘risk-based approach’, recognising that it ‘is a vulnerability to have untrusted vendors in any part of a 5G network.’
Ambassador Strayer identified the Chinese company Huawei as an example of this type of vendor. This is due to Chinese ‘intelligence laws that compel the activity to be directed by the leadership’, as well as Huawei’s integration into a broader ecosystem of technology company-state relations in China in which private firms are complicit in the surveillance and repression of dissenting elements of the population. Ambassador Strayer emphasised that this is fundamentally at odds with liberal ideas about human rights. He maintained that the approach advocated by some in the UK telecommunications sector of allowing Huawei to provide 5G infrastructure at the ‘edge’ of the new networks while excluding it from the ‘core’ where sensitive smart computing takes place was inadequate. Within 5G networks sensitive computing would increasingly move to the network’s edge. Instead, Ambassador Strayer observed that the UK could transition to relying on more reliable vendors such as Nokia, Samsung and Erikson.
Ambassador Strayer concluded by reflecting on how what was at stake was not simply technology security but the future of the digital world, and emphasised the need for the US and UK to work together to ensure that emerging technologies are put to good use rather than becoming a means for suppressing dissent and monitoring citizens.
Ambassador Strayer then answered the questions of the audience.
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