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Date:  Jan. 8, 2009

Contacts:  Rebecca Alvania, Media Relations Officer

Sara Frueh, Media Relations Officer

Luwam Yeibio, Media Relations Assistant

Office of News and Public Information

202-334-2138; e-mail <>




National Security Controls on Science and Technology

Are Broken and Should Be Restructured


WASHINGTON -- Many U.S. export and visa controls, developed during the Cold War era to prevent the transfer of technological and scientific advances to our enemies, now harm U.S. national security and economic prosperity, says a new report from the National Research Council.  The current regulations were designed for a world that no longer exists and are unsuitable for today's adversaries.  Immediate executive action is needed to restructure this system to prevent further declines in U.S. scientific and technological competitiveness. 


"In the modern globalized world of science and technology, restrictions on the flow of information, technology, and scientists can negatively impact both U.S. competitiveness and security," said John Hennessy, president of Stanford University and co-chair of the committee that wrote the report.       

The current system of export controls and visa regulations uses a series of lists to inform the licensing decisions of the departments of State and Commerce, including the United States Munitions List and the Commerce Control List.  Items are regularly added to the lists but rarely taken off.  According to the report, this list-based system has become a "technological Maginot Line." 


Due to restrictions on the transfer of military technology, current export controls slow maintenance of military equipment, discourage foreign defense contractors from purchasing U.S. equipment, and hamper international trade that could provide valuable information on the technical capabilities of foreign militaries.  In business, U.S. restrictions provide a road map for foreign competitors, highlighting the specific technologies and products in which other countries should invest research dollars.  Visa controls and "deemed export controls," the transfer of dual-use technology or source code to foreign nationals within the U.S., have made U.S. laboratories and universities less attractive to foreign researchers and have helped drive knowledge-intensive jobs overseas.  Significant changes are needed to create a system that is protective of both national security and economic prosperity.   


"[The United States] needs to change to a philosophy that everything is open and restricted only when it is demonstrated that it needs to be," said committee co-chair Brent Scowcroft, president of the Scowcroft Group and former U.S. national security adviser.


To ensure that the U.S. has access to the most talented scientists, the visa application process should incorporate skills-based preferential processing and should be streamlined so that legitimate foreign researchers and students have an easier time entering the United States.  Student visas should be extended so that recent graduates have time to find work with U.S.-based employers, and qualified U.S. scientists should be allowed to vouch for the technical credibility and legitimacy of visa applicants in their field as a means of aiding consular officials and expediting the application process. 


Rather than abandoning all export controls on goods and technologies, the report recommends retaining the controls that work and eliminating those that do not.  There should be specific principles to determine which goods or technologies are placed on the export control lists, and attempts to regulate the export of dual-use items should be cautious, with the burden of proof placed on those attempting to restrict access.  The report also recommends the creation of an economic competitiveness exemption that would eliminate export controls on dual-use technologies legally available on the global open market.  A "sunset" rule should be put in place so that items on the export control lists are removed after a specified amount of time unless a justification is presented for maintaining their restriction.


The report recommends the creation of two new entities to make the export control process run more smoothly and to resolve disputes when they occur.  A Coordinating Center for Export Controls would coordinate interactions with businesses or universities seeking export licenses and manage agency processes with respect to granting or denying export licenses.  An Export License Appeals Panel, comprised of active or retired federal judges, would hear disputes on licensing decisions and "sunset" requirements.  The report suggests placing both entities within the National Security Council structure, with the director of the Coordinating Center reporting to the national security adviser.


These changes should occur at the presidential level via an executive order, ideally early in the next administration, the committee said.  Once implemented, they could quickly begin to reverse the damage that has been done to U.S. national security and economic competitiveness.  These recommendations are first steps in a process that will eventually require legislative reform. 


The study was sponsored by the National Academies -- the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council -- which are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter.  The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.  A committee roster follows.


Copies of Beyond Fortress America: National Security Controls on Science and Technology in a Globalized World are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at  Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).  In addition, a podcast of the public briefing held to release this report is available at

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[ This news release and report are available at ]



Division on Policy and Global Affairs

Board on Development, Security, and Cooperation 


Committee on Science, Security, and Prosperity in a Changing World


John L. Hennessy 1, 2  (co-chair)

Stanford University
Stanford, Calif.


Brent Scowcroft (co-chair)

The Scowcroft Group
Washington, D.C.


Ronald M. Atlas

Professor of Biology, and
Center for Deterrence of Biowarfare and Bioterrorism
University of Louisville
Louisville, Ky.


William F. Ballhaus Jr. 2

President and Chief Executive Officer
The Aerospace Corp. (retired)
Los Angeles


Alfred R. Berkeley III

Pipeline Trading Systems LLC
New York City


Claude R. Canizares 1

Vice President for Research,

Associate Provost, and

Bruno Rossi Professor of Physics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Gail H. Cassell 3

Vice President

Scientific Affairs, and
Distinguished Lilly Research Scholar for Infectious Diseases
Eli Lilly and Co.


France A. Cordova

Purdue University
West Lafayette, Ind.


Ruth A. David

President and Chief Executive Officer
ANSER (Analytic Services Inc.)
Arlington, Va.


Gerald L. Epstein

Senior Fellow for Science and Security
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Washington, D.C.


John B. Gage

Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers
Menlo Park, Calif.


Bobby R. Inman

Lyndon B. Johnson Centennial Chair in National Policy
University of Texas


Anita K. Jones 2

Lawrence R. Quarles Professor of Engineering and Applied

School of Engineering and Applied Science
University of Virginia


Judith A. Miller

Senior Vice President and General Counsel
Bechtel Group Inc.
San Francisco


Norman P. Neureiter 1

Center for Science, Technology, and Security Policy
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Washington, D.C.


John S. Parker

Senior Vice President
Science Applications International Corp.
Reston, Va.


Suzanne D. Patrick

Independent Consultant

Washington, D.C.


Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker


McGeorge School of Law

University of the Pacific

Sacramento, Calif.


Deanne C. Siemer

Managing Director

Willsie Co. LLC

Washington, D.C.


Mitchel B. Wallerstein 


Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs

Syracuse University

Syracuse, N.Y.




Patricia Wrightson

Study Director



1          Member, National Academy of Sciences

2          Member, National Academy of Engineering

3          Member, Institute of Medicine