Panel: Update science and technology restrictions

Many visa and export controls that the United States developed during the Cold War-era now harm the country’s security and economy and should be restructured immediately, according to a report released by a committee of the National Academies’ National Research Council.

The report, “Beyond Fortress America: National Security Controls on Science and Technology in a Globalized World,” released Jan. 8 said the U.S. should update its policies to reflect current national security and economic realities. That should be done first at the presidential level through an executive order and will eventually require legislative reform, the committee said in a news release.

The committee also urged creating specific principles that would be used to determine which goods or technologies should be placed on the export control lists. The lists are regularly expanded but rarely shortened, and the panel recommended adding a sunset rule that would remove items after a specified amount of time.

The U.S. “needs to change to a philosophy that everything is open and restricted only when it is demonstrated that it needs to be," Brent Scowcroft, president of the Scowcroft Group and a former national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush,  said in a news release. Scowcroft co-chaired the committee.

The National Academies-sponsored report was written by a committee that included members from academia and private business.

In specific, the report recommended developing two new organizations: a coordinating center for export controls that would work with businesses and universities interested in acquiring export licenses and an export license appeals panel that would hear disputes on licensing decisions. Those organizations should be part of the National Security Council's structure, the panel suggested.

The panel also recommended reworking the visa application process to incorporate skills-based preferential processing and to make it easier for legitimate students and foreign researchers to enter and stay in the country for work.

Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, said in a statement that his committee would be examining the findings during the coming months.

“The nation owes a debt of gratitude to co-chairs Gen. Brent Scowcroft and Stanford University President John Hennessy as well as the other distinguished Americans who worked on this report,” he said. “The report released today represents a serious attempt to better understand the nature of the problem and to offer recommendations for reform.”


About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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