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Beyond "Fortress America": National Security Controls on Science and Technology in a Globalized World
scientific and engineering research taking place around the world, not just in the United States. Today, for example, the United States has lost its dominance in fields such as semi-conductor manufacturing. Several countries now rival the United States in creating a climate that encourages and rewards business and scientific innovation. As economic conditions have improved in China, India, and other countries, many young people who would have come to the United States to study or work in science and technology now opt to stay home for their education or to return to their home country after graduate school in the United States. All these changes mean that American security and prosperity now depend on maintaining active engagement with worldwide developments in science and technology, and with the global economy.
While the United States remains a world leader in advanced science and technology, it no longer dominates; it is now among the leaders. We are increasingly interdependent with the rest of the world. What is the United States doing to reap benefits from its increased interdependence? Instead of promoting engagement, the United States is required by our current system of controls to turn inward. Our visa controls have made it more difficult or less attractive for talented foreign professionals to come and learn what is great about this country, or to stay and help grow the American economy. Our export controls retard both the United States and its allies from sharing access to military technology, and handicap American business from competing globally.
In the post-9/11 world, even if we could accept the costs associated with mistakenly turning away some of the brightest international students or accept the forfeit of some business growth opportunities in the interest of national and homeland security, these are not the only outcomes of current policies. Such policies also weaken relations with allies, reduce the capability and strength of America’s defense industrial base, and help to create foreign competitors that diminish U.S. market share in critical technologies.
These unintended consequences arise from policies that were crafted for an earlier era. In the name of maintaining superiority, the United States now runs the risk of becoming less competitive and less prosperous; we run the risk of actually weakening our national security. The Cold War mentality of “Fortress America” cripples our ability to confront the very real dangers of altered world conditions.
This conclusion is not unique to this report. Several of these ideas have appeared in reports by the National Academies and by others in the wider policy community over the last 25 years. Two of the most