Two weeks ago US Tech Works attended a webinar featuring an august group of panelists convinced on persuading us of the dire need for more skilled foreign workers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Unlike a UC San Diego webinar we’d attended just weeks earlier, these panelists believe foreign workers are essential for our national security.
Hosted by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank that conducts research and education in the social sciences and primarily in economics, the webinar panel included two former national security officials; a former acting Deputy Secretary of the Department of Defense (DOD) and a retired four-star Army general. As the acting Deputy Secretary of Defense during the Obama administration, Christine H. Fox was the highest-ranking woman to serve in the DOD. She’s now a fellow at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. General Joseph Votel commanded Central Command (CENTCOM) and Special Operations Command (SOCOM), two extremely prestigious assignments and capstones to a very successful military career. He’s currently President and CEO of Business Executives for National Security (BENS) whose purpose is to apply “private sector practices to business challenges affecting the U.S. military and federal government.”
Upon reading the panel’s bios, my first reaction was the Brookings Institution had certainly rolled out the big guns and with that level of military firepower, we expected to be blanketed with a barrage of facts and anecdotes on how foreign STEM workers improve national security. Instead, we were subjected to 47 minutes of the deep state’s talking points on employment visas.
Case in point, Fox said the U.S. wouldn’t be able to handle the industry reshoring of the semiconductor industry because of our lack of talent. Truth be told we’re having difficulty finding workers, because the industry job growth has been stagnant for the past seven years. There’s only about half the number of workers today compared to the year 2000.
Last year in a Washington Post interview between tech reporter Cat Zakrzewski and Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, he had this to say about the semiconductor industry and shoring up the supply chain for greater resiliency:
“Yeah, a very good and important question, Cat, because one of the things, you know, as I’ve come back to be the CEO of Intel now for the last five months, that we need a more resilient but also globally balanced supply chain. And, if we were sitting here in 1990, the U.S. would be building 37 percent of the world’s semiconductors. Europe would be building 44 percent and Asia the remainder. Well, now it’s 12 percent in the U.S., 9 percent in Europe, and almost 80 percent in Asia. We’ve become too concentrated, and the world was focused on cost of supply chain as opposed to resilience of supply chain. And this has been the case across many industries, PPE, vaccines. We’ve seen this in many industries where, all of a sudden, everybody is waking up and realizing resilience of supply chains is way more important, and we somehow got lulled into sleep over the last decade.”
Net, net, all the talk and commotion about Asia being the locus of talent and innovation is actually a direct result of our offshoring decisions and business practices. The U.S. has the talent to fill these manufacturing jobs, as not long ago, those jobs were here. And we should be restoring those jobs to support our domestic workforce! Defense officials like Fox and Votel may want to onshore STEM jobs but they don’t seem to want to hire U.S. citizens to do them. My take is they’re unable to see the reality of the situation. Fox seems blind to the U.S. semiconductor industry’s recent problems, and Votel seems unaware of the role his business clients play in weakening our critical supply chains.
Another claim repeated throughout the webinar was “the DOD has a STEM labor shortage,” and Fox even commented there’s a general labor shortage for STEM talent. Really? That’s difficult to believe because according to the DOD’s The STEM Workforce Needs for the Department of Defense report there aren’t any critical shortages of STEM workers. In fact, "it is unlikely that the United States will suffer from an overall shortage of scientists and engineers." Further emphasizing that point, the report says there’s "little evidence that this issue will directly impact DOD’s ability to meet its personnel needs” and there’s "no projected shortage of STEM workers for DOD and its industrial contractor base." While granted there are some exceptions, primarily for "specialized, but important, areas — such as cybersecurity and selected intelligence fields," there’s a relatively simple solution to the problem. Train and provide job experience to U.S. citizens so they can do these jobs! Recruiting more entry-level IT workers from abroad doesn’t equate to more cybersecurity specialists. Sadly, when General Votel said, "it takes months to get people on board", it was more an indictment of the DOD’s infamous entrenched bureaucratic structure than it was an attack on the volume of U.S. based STEM talent.
If anyone should understand the national security implications and inherent risks of giving foreigners access to federal government data systems, it should be Votel, the guy who was at the helm of SOCOM. As a former Army counterintelligence officer, I’m flabbergast that DOD senior management isn’t more deeply concerned about allowing foreigners to handle sensitive government data. In response to that seemingly lack of concern, we pelleted the panel with questions and live tweeted our reactions until the panel addressed the issue. While they eventually acknowledged some risk exists, they were completely dismissive of the decades-long evidence of corporate espionage and tech transfer.
FBI Director Christopher Wray has warned the Chinese Communist Party has "engaged in physical theft, and they’ve pioneered an expansive approach to stealing innovation through a wide range of actors," including "certain kinds of graduate students and researchers." The FBI is currently investigating over a thousand cases of Chinese technology theft of research from American universities and companies. What good does it do to build a secure network only to have those managing it be of questionable loyalty? Bringing more foreign students and graduates from Asia won’t strengthen national security – it will weaken it!
Generals like Votel are prized talent for firms like Washington-based firms like BENS because they can provide business executives access to Pentagon officials. As I said earlier, BENS applies “private sector practices to business challenges affecting the U.S. military and federal government.” Private sector practices do nothing more than employ an efficiency model that induces cost cutting which leads to and includes outsourcing of jobs and importing cheaper replacement workers.
Both Fox and Votel have signed a letter, along with other former national security officials, pleading for more foreigners to fill STEM jobs. They’re even urging Congress to exempt foreigners with an advanced STEM degree from green card caps. That policy change would mean anyone with a doctorate degree in a STEM field could gain entry to the U.S. notwithstanding the quality or authenticity of their degree. It’s the equivalent of saying a piece of paper equates to talent even if the institution granting it is fictitious and the document is a complete and outright fabrication.
Suffice to say, neither of these defense officials has a desire to prioritize American workers first for government jobs. But someone else once did. In 2020, President Trump made it a priority to safeguard the federal government from the globalists that fund the likes of Fox, Votel, The Brookings Institution and Johns Hopkins. He recognized there were 18,000 federal government jobs filled by temporary H-1B workers who presented a national security risk, and that Americans could do the job better. He signed an Executive Order initiating a department-wide audit on government hiring practices and forced agencies to focus on U.S. labor in government contracts. If that Executive Order were implemented by the Biden administration today, the federal government, including the DOD, would be a haven for our domestic tech workers.
It’s obvious the Brookings Institution and UC San Diego webinars were designed to push a pro-immigration agenda. It’s not surprising given the current climate in Washington where globalists are trying to inject employment visa friendly amendments into a slew of bills — the COMPETES Act and the National Defense Authorization Act.
While we may not have changed the minds of Fox and Votel, I suppose we should be grateful. We forced them to address the displacement of U.S. tech workers and the hazards and risks of hiring foreign STEM workers into national security jobs.