persisted, both in substance and in the administrative structures within which the controls are carried out.

How Did We Get Where We Are?

In response to the numerically superior military forces of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies, the United States committed to building a military establishment that fielded qualitatively superior forces. To sustain this “run faster” strategy, the United States invested significantly in advanced research and development in university, industry, and national laboratories to produce superior technology in fielded military systems. As a result, the United States achieved the leadership position in many areas of science and technology.

There followed well-documented efforts by the former Soviet Union to systematically collect and exploit for military purposes scientific and technical information produced in the West.1 These efforts were unprecedented in scope and in the resources (both human and financial) dedicated to their implementation. To counter this threat, the United States crafted a system of policies and regulations designed to limit the flow of technology to the Soviet Union and its allies. This system included classification, export controls, deemed export controls,2 restrictions on the dissemination of government-funded research, and limitations on visa and visitation privileges by those who could collect advanced scientific and technological knowledge within the United States. Each of these regulatory requirements was premised on the direct application of particular elements of technology to specific military uses. Moreover, all of these military uses were envisioned, in the U.S. regulatory design, as being wielded by an identified state power—most specifically, the former Soviet Union and its allies. With a common understanding of the security threat they faced, the United States and its allies acted to deny crucial technology to the Soviet Union and the other states of the Warsaw Pact.


See, for example, National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine. 1982. Scientific Communication and National Security (hereafter known as the Corson Report after the panel’s chair, Dale Corson). Washington, DC: National Academy Press, pp. 17-18.


Deemed export controls refer to controlling the transfer of technical information to foreign nationals who are studying or working in the United States.

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