Congress is analyzing potential national security risks arising from Elon Musk’s SpaceX contracts with NASA.
Its concerns are based primarily on the financial assistance Tesla Inc., also owned by Elon Musk, receives from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Washington Examiner reported on Wednesday, Aug. 26.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), in an interview for the Washington Examiner, expressed concerns that the CCP may be placing conditions on loans to Tesla that are detrimental to U.S. security, arguing that the CCP may be aiming to boost its space program.
“I’m concerned that companies in China could come into the United States, make a sweetheart deal, take sensitive information, take proprietary technologies, and use it to enrich their own space program, their own national security efforts in China,” Gardner said.
Gardner chairs the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia. To counter the potential threat, he proposed two amendments that would allow the government to review the links between NASA contractors and the CCP, and suggested that NASA chiefs examine those links before reaching any agreement.
Gardner’s proposals focus attention on aerospace companies directly connecting to CCP cash and on U.S. companies that share ownership with NASA suppliers. This aspect broadens the investigation’s scope to ensure that the CCP cannot establish “shell companies” in the United States to escape control.
Such legislation could put SpaceX at a disadvantage since Musk’s company, Tesla, obtained a credit line worth approximately $1.4 billion from Chinese state banks in December.
In the interview, Gardner made it clear that the legislation was not intended to punish Musk’s companies. At least seven aerospace companies have some element of CCP investment that would generate warning signals, as is the case of Tencent. Gardner was referring to the Chinese social networking company that President Trump’s administration has targeted in recent months, specifically by the executive order that seeks to sell WeChat (owned by Tencent) to a U.S. company.
Gardner said he was surprised that the legislation, which passed out of committee unanimously, turned controversial in recent weeks. “I look at these provisions as pretty commonsense protections of our space programs and space technologies,” he added.