According to a new private intelligence report, at least 154 Chinese scientists who worked on government sponsored research at the U.S.'s foremost national security laboratory over the last two decades have been recruited to do scientific work in China.
The report describes an effort by the government of China to put Chinese scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where nuclear weapons were first developed.
According to the report, many of the scientists werelured back to China to help develop technologies such as deep-earth-penetrating, hypersonic missiles, quiet submarines and drones.
The Chinese government paid as much as $1 million to scientists who participated intalent programs. The phenomenon of talent programs has been identified as a source of concern by the U.S.
According to the report, the talent transfer poses a direct threat to U.S. national security. China is playing a game that we are not prepared for.
Most of the conduct described in the report appears to have been legal, despite the fact that a former Los Alamos scientist lied about his involvement in a China recruitment program. Most Chinese scientists who emigrate to the U.S. remain here, according to U.S. officials and experts.
The report shows how the Chinese government has been using talent recruitment programs to get insights into U.S. technology that could be used to build a military that poses a significant threat to U.S. national security. The officials said that the long history of scientific exchange between the two countries is being reexamined.
The Wilson Center, a nonpartisan research institute, says that it has benefited enormously from the inflow of Chinese talent. It is essential to the United States. We have to go back to the drawing board in some areas because China is now developing weapons systems, capabilities, doctrines and attitudes toward its own power.
The Thousand Talents Program and similar arrangements were seen as a way for China to exploit U.S. research.
The FBI director said that China pays scientists at American universities to secretly bring their knowledge and innovation back to China. American taxpayers are footing the bill for China's own technological development.
Many foreign scientists work at the lab, which is devoted to science and engineering in support of U.S. national security.
The Energy Department refused to address the report's specific findings.
America's national security and defense requires fierce protection of critical technology development, even as we safeguard the open science research that underpins the United States' technology leadership, according to a statement from the Energy Department.
The Department of Energy has taken significant steps in recent years, including the adoption of rigorous vetting, counterintelligence reviews, and restrictions on participation in foreign talent programs.
There was no response from the Chinese Embassy in Washington.
The Energy Department banned employees and contractors from taking part in talent programs linked to China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, according to a report. The rule seems to have reduced the brain drain.
The China Initiative was launched by the Justice Department in order to stop China from stealing. The Justice Department abandoned the initiative after a number of cases blew up. National security officials say the threat from Chinese espionage is still present.
The problem of technology transfer through talent-poaching has been documented in many classified reports over the years, according to Bill Evanina, the top counterintelligence official in the U.S.
He said, "This is the first time where we have a comprehensive, open-source reporting that identifies the people, the places, the services and the organizations in China who are benefiting from that talent who once worked here at national labs."
China is recruiting scientists at other national labs and major research centers in the U.S., according to Evanina and other officials.
Specific information about a number of scientists is included in the report.
According to the report, the leader of a defense project that developed bombs that can penetrate deep underground received nearly $20 million in U.S. taxpayer grants.
He left the U.S. for a job in China after joining a talent program. He hired a Chinese scientist to work with him on the bomb research while he was at Los Alamos. According to the report, a scientist in China filed a patent for a warhead in 2007.
The Southern University of Science and Technology, also known as SUStech, is a defense research center. He didn't reply to questions.
The president of SUStech, who made significant contributions to China's hypersonic missile program, is a Los Alamos veteran. Chen didn't reply to email.
Evanina said that no one can say that this isn't a national security issue. We are perpetrating the ability for adversaries to use weapons against us because of the range of our weapons. It's hard for an American to accept that.
The article was first published on NBC News.