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Brian Williams

Brian Williams advises on the U.S. national security review process administered by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), as well as related reviews conducted by the informal interagency working group known as Team Telecom.

Brian, a non-lawyer, draws on over 20 years of public and private sector experience advising on issues at the intersection of national security, technology, and law. He is the principal architect of the risk framework that has become the de facto standard for all risk assessments conducted by CFIUS and Team Telecom, and has counseled the most senior officials of the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security on how to assess and address potential national security risks posed by foreign investment.

Brian led multi-agency analyst teams which authored the majority of CFIUS risk assessments between 2005 and 2017, while providing the U.S. Government due diligence, assessment, and, where necessary, mitigation strategy development support on over 1,600 CFIUS transactions and 1,000 Federal Communications Commission license applications before Team Telecom.

On the heels of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions, and U.S.-China tensions over Taiwan, 2022 accelerated a sweeping effort within the U.S. government to make national security considerations—especially with respect to China—a key feature of new and existing regulatory processes. This trend toward broader national security regulation, designed to help maintain U.S. strategic advantage, has support from both Republicans and Democrats, including from the Biden Administration. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s remarks in September 2022 capture the tone shift in Washington: “…[W]e have to revisit the longstanding premise of maintaining ‘relative’ advantages over competitors in certain key technologies…That is not the strategic environment we are in today…[w]e must maintain as large of a lead as possible.”

This environment produced important legislative and regulatory developments in 2022, including the CHIPS and Science Act (Covington alert), first-ever Enforcement and Penalty Guidelines promulgated by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS” or the “Committee”) (Covington alert), President Biden’s Executive Order on CFIUS (Covington alert), new restrictions under U.S. export control authorities targeting China (Covington alert), and proposals for a new regime to review outbound investments by U.S. businesses (Covington alert). The common thread among these developments is the U.S. government’s continuing appetite to use both existing and new regulatory authorities to address identified national security risks, especially where perceived risks relate to China.

With a Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives riding the tailwinds of this bipartisan consensus, 2023 is looking like a pivotal moment for national security regulation—expanding beyond the use of traditional authorities such as trade controls and CFIUS, into additional regulatory domains touching upon data, communications, antitrust, and possibly more. In parallel, the U.S. focus on national security continues to gain purchase abroad, with foreign direct investment (“FDI”) regimes maturing in tandem with CFIUS, and outbound investment screening gaining traction, for example, in the European Union (“EU”). It is crucial for businesses to be aware of these developments and to approach U.S. regulatory processes with a sensitivity towards the shifting national security undercurrents described in greater detail below.Continue Reading Will 2023 Be an Inflection Point in National Security Regulation?