The ban comes as an addendum to a larger defense bill, the Defense Authorization Act, and will prohibit the government and its contractors from using the two Chinese suppliers’ tech for “essential” or “critical” roles in systems.
Thus, the bill doesn’t ban all ZTE and Huawei gear, just components that can be used to view or route data. The ban goes into effect gradually over the next two years.
Some government contractors that already rely on ZTE and Huawei gear will be greatly affected. The bill’s authors allocated money to help the contractors find and pay for replacement parts for the Chinese companies’ technology.
The passage of the bill is the conclusion to a long-running saga regarding ZTE. The Senate in June passed a full trade ban on the company, but the measure didn’t pass the House. The Commerce Department then made a deal to lift a trade ban on ZTE, a move that may have saved the company. It also infuriated many Republicans in Congress. The current limited ban on ZTE and Huawei for government and contractor purposes is a sort of compromise.
The government has for a long time suspected that ZTE and Huawei technology could be used by the Chinese government to harm U.S. digital infrastructure or assets. A 2012 House report called ZTE and Huawei products a national security threat, points out The Verge. Earlier this year the heads of six national security agencies recommended against using ZTE and Huawei products.
Update: In a statement, Huawei has responded to the U.S. government action: “Huawei supports the US government’s goals for better security, but this random addition to the NDAA is ineffective, misguided, and unconstitutional. It does nothing to identify real security risks or improve supply chain security, and will only serve to stifle innovation while increasing internet costs for US consumers and businesses.”