On February 16, 2023, the US Departments of Justice and Commerce announced a joint initiative to enforce export control laws—the Disruptive Technology Task Force (the “Task Force”). In announcing the Task Force, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said the goal of the initiative was to block adversaries from “trying to siphon our best technology.”1
The press release announcing the Task Force identifies China, Iran, Russia, North Korea, and Syria as “nation-state adversaries” that can use sensitive technology “in new or novel ways to enhance their military capabilities or support mass surveillance programs that enable human rights abuses.”2 It adds that technologies such as “supercomputing and exascale computing, artificial intelligence, advanced manufacturing equipment and materials, quantum computing, and biosciences” are of particular importance to these “nation-state adversaries,” while acknowledging these technologies have non-military uses.3 These countries and technologies will likely be the Task Force’s enforcement priorities going forward.
Per the announcement press release, the Task Force’s array of enforcement activities will:
focus on investigating and prosecuting criminal violations of export laws; enhancing administrative enforcement of US export controls; fostering partnerships with the private sector; leveraging international partnerships to coordinate law enforcement actions and disruption strategies; utilizing advanced data analytics and all-source intelligence to develop and build investigations; conducting regular trainings for field offices; and strengthening connectivity between the strike force and the Intelligence Community.4
Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen, from the Department of Justice’s National Security Division (NSD), and Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement Matthew Axelrod, from the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), will co-lead the Task Force.5 Outside of NSD and BIS, the Homeland Security Investigations Division (HSI) within the Department of Homeland Security and staff from 14 US Attorneys’ Offices in 12 metropolitan regions across the country will support the Task Force.6
The creation of this Task Force reflects the Biden Administration’s continued use of export control policy initiatives and enforcement tools to enhance its broader national security priorities and agenda, including with respect to China.