A key House space subcommittee chairman charged today that NASA officials will violate federal law if they host Chinese government officials as currently planned at one of the agency's major research centers.
Rep. Frank Wolf's reminder to NASA that federal law bars hosting of Chinese officials at NASA's Langely Research Center comes on the heels of recent congressional worries why a federal investigation into national security leaks to the Chinese government was shut down.
In a letter to NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Wolf, a Virginia Republican, said "I am writing to remind you that the hosting of official Chinese visitors at facilities belonging to or utilized by NASA is prohibited ... except in cases where NASA has provided appropriate certifications to the committees on Appropriation of the House of Representatives and the Senate no later than 14 days prior to the visit."
A Chinese delegation is scheduled to attend the March 12-14 meeting at NASA Langley of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) Strategic Implementation Team.
"Because it is now less than 14 days before the commencement of the CEOS meeting and no such certification has been provided, the hosting of any Chinese visitors would be in clear violation of the law," Wolf wrote.
A NASA spokesman said the agency "is reviewing" Wolf's letter.
The China Sanction Act of 2000 severely limits U.S.-China interactions, while a 2011 defense appropriations measure added additional restrictions, including barring NASA from using funds to host visits from official Chinese delegations.
Michael F. O'Brien, NASA associate administrator for international and interagency relations, circulated an April 21, 2011, memo to NASA headquarters officials reminding them of the ban on hosting Chinese visitors.
The NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA, specializes in various unmanned space vehicles, which are a major Chinese military interest.
Wolf asked Bolden to conduct an "immediate review" of Chinese visits to all NASA research centers and to its headquarters "to ensure that official Chinese visitors have not inappropriately gained access to any NASA facilities."
Bolden came under fire for his 2010 visit to China, which prompted Wolf and other congressmen to issue a statement saying "we have serious concerns about the nature and goals of China's space program and strongly oppose any cooperation between NASA and China."
In February, Wolf, House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith, R-TX, and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Minority Member Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-IA, demanded to know if political considerations influenced a decision to terminate a federal probe into the activities of foreign nationals working at NASA's Ames Research Center near San Francisco.
The probe was aimed at determining if any of those nationals or others at Ames may have given space defense technology to the Chinese.
President Obama issued a report on commercial espionage last month that described Chinese interest in "unmanned aerial vehicles, and other aerospace/aeronautics technologies."
The federal Office of National Counterintelligence Executive reported in 2011 that the Chinese government is the most "aggressive and capable collectors" of U.S. technology.
Richard Pollock is a member of The Washington Examiner's Watchdog investigative reporting team. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.