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Defense & Security

NAS panel proposes executive order to revise export controls, visa regulations

A report released January 8 by the National Research Council proposes an executive order to be issued by the new president that would immediately begin the reform of export controls on dual-use technologies affecting United States industry.

"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 report says that the United States system of export controls is "fundamentally broken and cannot be fixed by incremental changes."

Committee co-chair Brent Scowcroft, president of the Scowcroft Group and former U.S. national security adviser, said that the premise of the panel's recommendations is that restrictions based on protecting technology on national security grounds actually have the effect that they "damage economic competitiveness severely."

The panel proposes an approach that non-classified technologies should generally not be restricted. "Exemption is the rule and control needs to be justified," said panel member Deanne Siemer, managing director of Wilsie Co. LLC who has served as Special Counsel to the President. She said a presidential executive order would be the best way to get the reform process started.

Beyond the commercial restrictions on dual-use technologies, Scowcroft added that the regulations now in effect, developed during the Cold War era, cause a "degradation of our ability" to cooperate or share strategic information with allied nations.

The report also recommends changes in visa regulations to ensure that credentialed foreign scientists can work in the United States. This includes "ready access to permission for long-term stays" after graduation from U.S. degree programs.

While acknowledging that any relaxation of export control restrictions would not be risk free, the panel concluded that the increased speed of information exchange is "incompatible with our existing systems of regulating the movement of people, ideas, components, and products." Of equal importance to security is "maintaining and enhancing the scientific and technological competitiveness of the United States."

The export-control changes recommended by the report include:

  • A coordinating agency to expedite agency processes involved with export licenses,
  • Applying “sunset” requirements to all items on export control lists, requiring annual proof that removing controls on an item would be a substantial risk to national security,
  • Establishing an appeals panel to decide disputes about licensing.
The report is available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12567.