there is a need for special programs to screen foreign students from a range of countries who might be pursuing studies in “sensitive” fields.
Third, a more generalized concern is present about state actors and their access to advanced technologies of military significance. That is, because the U.S. military edge is built on the skillful application of advanced technology, there is concern that other countries might benefit militarily from access to scientific or technical information available in the university environment. This too differs from Cold War days, first, because of the diverse group of countries that might be judged to be potential adversaries; second, because research in some areas (e.g., biotechnology) is now far closer to application than it has been in the past; and third, because in some fields the civilian applications of technology available at universities may be ahead of military applications for that same technology.
Finally, concerns are present arising from the reality that America’s economic well-being is founded on the maintenance of its scientific and technological edge and that foreign countries could seek to penetrate U.S. universities (as well as U.S. businesses) for the purpose of obtaining early access to technology in order to supplant U.S. capabilities and reap the economic gains for themselves. This too differs somewhat from Cold War days because the world is increasingly “flat,” with individuals from most anywhere able to connect, collaborate, innovate, and compete. As a result, many countries now seek to exploit advanced technology as an engine of economic growth. Especially in the case of China, experts who spoke before the committee sometimes were vague regarding whether they were more concerned about traditional security-related espionage or more competitive economic espionage where high technology research data are concerned.
In the committee’s view, none of these concerns should be dismissed or disregarded. And indeed, the committee was aware that the university community has responded to concerns raised by the September 11th terrorist events by strengthening current policies and implementing new policies stemming from recent federal regulations. The committee concluded, however, that these concerns do not justify the use of extreme measures that could serve to significantly disrupt the openness that has characterized the U.S. scientific and technology enterprises. The committee reached this conclusion because some policies that would aim to minimize the threats described earlier also could pose significant risks to the nation’s ability to remain economically and militarily secure.