Justice & Commerce Departments Launch Disruptive Technologies Strike Force

By: By Olga Torres, Managing Member
Date: 03/03/2023

On February 17, 2023, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the U.S. Department of Commerce (“Commerce”) announced the creation of the Disruptive Technology Strike Force (“DTSF”).

Under the leadership of DOJ’s National Security Division (“NSD”) and Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”), the DTSF combines the efforts of subject-matter experts and law enforcement officials across U.S. government – including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, and fourteen U.S. Attorneys’ Offices – to “target illicit actors, strengthen supply chains and protect critical technological assets from being acquired or used by nation-state adversaries.” The DTSF is co-led by Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of NSD and Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement Matthew Axelrod of BIS.

The DTSF aims to enhance further coordination on export control enforcement between DOJ and Commerce by leveraging “real-time intelligence and 21st century data analytics” to detect illegal transfers of controlled technology to foreign adversaries. Specifically, the press release identifies four nation-state adversaries – the People’s Republic of China, Iran, Russia, and North Korea – as top concerns regarding the acquisition of advanced technologies. When nation-state adversaries acquire certain advanced technologies, they may be used in novel ways to enhance the acquiring state’s military capabilities or mass surveillance apparatus.

According to Assistant Attorney General Olsen, the DTSF is “taking aim at those who imperil our national security and the rule of law by illegally transferring sensitive technologies to foreign adversaries.” Olsen emphasized the need to “remain vigilant” in enforcing U.S. export controls, which contribute to military readiness, preserve U.S. technological superiority over adversaries, and protect human rights and democratic values worldwide.

“Advances in technology,” Assistant Secretary Matthew Axelrod noted, “have the potential to alter the world’s balance of power.” Advanced dual-use technologies, such as those related to artificial intelligence, supercomputing and exascale computing, advanced manufacturing equipment and materials, quantum computing, and biotechnologies, threaten U.S. national security when used by adversaries for “disruptive purposes.” For instance, nation-state adversaries may seek to acquire sensitive dual-use technologies for malign purposes like weapons design and testing, military and intelligence-related decision-making, or cryptographic purposes.

The creation of the DTSF is just the latest of many concerted U.S. government efforts to prioritize export control enforcement by enhancing interagency cooperation. It also signals a path forward focusing on “disruptive” technologies sought by nation-state adversaries of greatest U.S. national security concern.

Browse by Type

Browse by Practice Area