A recently introduced bipartisan bill (S-1869) in the Senate would require new scrutiny of ownership of building space leased by federal agencies, in particular whether there is foreign ownership of space where secure activities are conducted.
Sponsors said the bill is a response to a 2017 GAO report “which indicated that federal agencies were vulnerable to espionage and other cyber intrusions because foreign actors could gain unauthorized access to spaces used for classified operations or to store sensitive data.” That report found that agencies including the FBI and DEA were in foreign-owned buildings without knowing it.
“The GAO report highlighted the dangers posed by these properties, indicating that leasing space in foreign-owned buildings could present security risks such as espionage, unauthorized cyber and physical access to the facilities, and sabotage,” the sponsor statement said.
The bill would require the GSA to design a verification system that identifies a property’s owners if the space would be used for high-security purposes. It also would require the GSA and individual agencies to include provisions in their leasing agreements limiting property owners’ physical access to spaces the government uses for high-security purposes.