Republican Rep. Andy Barr is expected to introduce a bill Friday that would create an FBI initiative to root out Chinese Communist Party espionage and theft at higher education institutions in the U.S., Fox News has learned.
Fox News first obtained a copy of Barr’s, R-Ky., bill, titled the "Higher Education Research Protection Act of 2021."
The FBI’s Office of Private Sector already exists within the bureau and is tasked with investigating higher education espionage, but Barr’s office said the FBI does not have the resources to pull agents from different missions to focus solely on this issue.
The bill creates 56 new FBI agent slots under the purview of the Office of the Private Sector—all of whom would directly report to the assistant FBI director, and would be dedicated to investigating and carrying out the mission.
If approved, the bill would direct the assistant FBI director to "investigate and report" to the director of the FBI "any suspected incidents of individuals participating in federally funded research as agents of a foreign government in institutions of higher education and National Academies."
The bill specifies that "foreign government" includes the "People’s Republic of China or any component thereof, including the Chinese Communist Party, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, the Central Military Commission of China, the Chinese People’s Political Consulative Conference, the National People’s Congress of China, or the State Council of China."
"The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Thousand Talents scheme of stealing research at American universities is a serious national security threat," Barr told Fox News. "My proposal shows the CCP the U.S. is serious about cracking down on this espionage scheme and equips the FBI with resources to stop the CCP’s theft of research at American universities in its tracks."
The "Thousand Talents Plan," according to the Justice Department, is "one of the most prominent Chinese Talent recruitment plans that are designed to attract, recruit and cultivate high-level scientific talent in furtherance of China’s scientific development, economic prosperity and national security." The program seeks to lure Chinese overseas talent and foreign experts to "bring their knowledge and experience to China and reward individuals for stealing proprietary information."
Barr’s bill also comes after a Confucius Institute at the University of Kentucky recently shut down—a move Barr commended.
China began establishing Confucius Institutes on college campuses in 2004, including its first in the U.S. at the University of Maryland. The number of Confucius Institutes in the U.S. has since expanded to more than 100, which is the most of any country, according to a government report.
There are also Confucius classrooms in K-12 grade schools.
Former President Donald Trump proposed a rule on Dec. 31 that would have required schools certified to have student and exchange visitor programs to disclose agreements with Confucius Institutes and classrooms, including partnerships and financial dealings.
The rule was withdrawn at the end of January.