Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and more than two dozen other Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin earlier this month, demanding the removal of a Duke Energy-supplied Chinese battery installation at the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and demanding an investigation into whether similar installations have been placed on other bases.

The batteries, which were removed, were manufactured by a Chinese Communist Party-supported company, Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd., the world’s largest battery manufacturer.

Duke Energy won the $22 million contract to construct Camp Lejeune’s microgrid, complete with five megawatts of natural gas and an 11-megawatt battery storage system.

The installation integrated the base’s existing solar array with the abilities to start up without an external power source, to receive prompt updates on the power needs of the base, and to remove itself from the region’s power grid if necessary. 

Camp Lejeune serves as the largest coordinating hub for the Marine Corps on the East Coast, hosts the Marine Corps Special Operations Command, and trains Marines in amphibious assault and urban warfare.

The national security concern is that technology in the batteries, including the passive sensor technology, could send data back to China (a claim that Duke denied).

Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C., who represents the 3rd Congressional District of North Carolina, discussed with Duke Energy why the batteries were installed in April and were only removed in early December, at about the same time as the lawmakers sent their letter to Austin.

“This troubling revelation makes me question my faith in the Department of Defense’s decision protocols that enabled such a thing to happen on a military base,” said Murphy, in whose district the base is located, adding: “The [Chinese Communist Party] has no better friend in the United States right now than the leadership in the Biden administration.”

The development comes on the heels of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin blocking a Ford-Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. deal this year to build a battery plant in Virginia, citing security issues and calling the plant “a front for China.”

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies points out that Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. has ties to Beijing’s United Front Work Department. The department runs the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce overseas trade group, whose vice chairman, Zeng Yuquan, is the largest shareholder in the company.  

According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s 2023 Annual Threat Assessment, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has repeatedly announced his intentions to control key global supply chains. The report highlights how Chinese-based firms are on track to control 65% of the lithium-ion battery market by 2025 and how Western manufacturing and consumer sectors could be leveraged for political or economic gain.

Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. has used CCP support to control 25% of the cobalt reserves in the Republic of Congo in Africa, where child labor is used in mining operations. China also uses Uyghurs and other minorities for slave labor in its domestic solar industry.

Scholars from The Heritage Foundation have outlined ways to counter the CCP. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)

In testimony before the Kansas state Special Committee on Foreign Adversary Investments and Land Purchases, Diana Furchtgott-Roth, director of Heritage’s Center for Energy, Climate, and Environment, suggested that states “make sure that tax credits intended for domestic manufacturers of batteries and [electric vehicles] are used by American companies, and not Chinese companies, and encourage the federal government to roll back agency regulations and guidance that allow foreign companies to benefit.”

In testimony before the same committee, Bryan Burack, senior policy adviser for China and the Indo-Pacific with Heritage’s Asian Studies Center, recommended that states restrict purchases of land by Chinese companies, particularly near military bases or utilities.

Policymakers and the public should be suspicious of China and its military-civilian union of leading tech firms. The tech espionage could reveal vulnerabilities in both America’s civilian and military electrical systems, allowing them to peer into the inner workings of critical military bases, such as Camp Lejeune, and gather information on the Marine Corps Special Forces Operation Command and other military commands.  

Instead of harvesting cobalt from artisanal mines that use child labor, America could procure the critical minerals in those batteries domestically—if the Biden administration would lift restrictions on mining and processing.

Additionally, automakers have called for hitting the brakes on proposed Biden administration mandates forcing the adoption of battery-powered vehicles because of the low market demand for EVs and myriad supply chain issues. 

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