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Scientific Communication and National Security
THE QUALITY OF THE EVIDENCE
The Panel’s goal was to assess how much harm to our national security—in absolute terms and in relation to the larger problem—could be attributed to information losses from members of the scientific community, including university scientists.
The evidence on this question is incomplete for two basic reasons. First, the collection of data and analysis of the leakage problem have only recently begun. The interagency Technology Transfer Intelligence Committee, for example, was given its mission to examine the problem only in late 1981. The effort at present largely consists of the collection of information on incidents of technology transfer, and such data have not yet been organized in a way that would indicate the relative contributions of U.S. scientific sources or most of the many other sources of leakage. Second, the question is inherently much less tractable than most observers—on all sides of the policy debate—might wish. The development of a definitive answer as to the extent and significance of loss through any single channel of leakage would, in effect, require analysts to trace information from its origin within the United States, through a transfer channel to an adversary nation, and then into its use in a specific military application. This analysis would, in addition, have to extend to large enough numbers of specific instances to permit valid generalizations. Such a retrospective analysis would prove difficult enough if it were undertaken for ordinary domestic technology transfer, where all the principals in a transfer could be interviewed; meaningful analyses of international transfers, some involving extralegal means, are even more difficult. For the present, we are left with some indirect indicators and some individual case studies.
The technology transfer process can be seen as comprising four steps: (1) the attempt by an adversary to obtain information, (2) the actual transfer to the collecting nation, (3) the absorption of the information into foreign technology, and (4) the resulting improvement in the foreign country’s military strength. Some parts of this transfer process—unfortunately, the parts that bear least directly on the Panel’s ultimate question—are relatively well understood. Evidence of Eastern bloc attempts to secure Western technology, for example, is fairly extensive. Isolated occurrences of significant technology losses are fairly well documented, but none of these documented cases has involved open scientific communication. Evidence on the ability of the Soviet military to absorb Western technology is incomplete, while evidence on the military significance of identified transfers is largely fragmentary.
POTENTIAL CHANNELS AND TYPES OF TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER
The Overall Problem
The potential channels through which American technology may be lost are numerous and varied (see Table 1). The ability of a foreign