The economic and military strength of the United States is based to a substantial degree on its superior achievements in science and technology and on its capacity to translate those achievements into products and processes that contribute to economic prosperity and national defense. There are concerns, however, that the Soviet Union has gained militarily from access to the results of U.S. scientific and technological efforts. Accordingly, there have been recent suggestions that tighter controls should be established on the transfer of information through open channels to the Soviets. Such controls would, however, also inhibit the free communication of scientific and technical information essential to our achievements. The Panel on Scientific Communication and National Security was asked to examine the various aspects of the application of controls to scientific communication and to suggest how to balance competing national objectives so as to best serve the general welfare. This task has involved a careful assessment of the sources of leakage, the nature of universities and scientific communication, the current systems of information control, and the several costs and benefits of controls. These assessments underlie the Panel’s recommendations.
UNWANTED TRANSFER OF U.S. TECHNOLOGY
There has been a substantial transfer of U.S. technology—much of it directly relevant to military systems—to the Soviet Union from diverse sources. The Soviet science and technology intelligence effort has increased in recent years, including that directed at U.S. universities and scientific research. The Soviet Union is exploiting U.S.-U.S.S.R. exchange programs by giving intelligence assignments to some of its participating nationals. This has led to reports of abuses in which the activities of some Soviet bloc exchange visitors have clearly extended beyond their agreed fields of study and have included activities that are inappropriate for visiting scholars.
There is a strong consensus, however, that universities and open scientific communication have been the source of very little of this technology transfer problem. Although there is a net flow of scientific information from the United States to the Soviet Union,
consistent with the generally more advanced status of U.S. science, there is serious doubt as to whether the Soviets can reap significant direct military benefits from this flow in the near term. Moreover, U.S. openness gives this nation access to Soviet science in many key areas, and scientific contacts yield useful insights into Soviet institutions and society.
UNIVERSITIES AND SCIENTIFIC COMMUNICATION
The principal mission of universities is education; in many American universities research has also become a major activity, but this research is intertwined with teaching and with the training of advanced research scientists and engineers. Participation in research teaches students to solve difficult, novel problems, often under the guidance of first-rate scientists. Federal policies in support of science have reinforced universities’ dual functions.
The system as it has recently evolved has been remarkably successful; American research universities attract some of the best minds from around the world and are the principal source of our scientific preeminence. The effectiveness of this research is now seriously threatened, however, by a number of economic and social forces.
Scientific communication is traditionally open and international in character. Scientific advance depends on worldwide access to all the prior findings in a field—and, often, in seemingly unrelated fields—and on systematic critical review of findings by the world scientific community. In addition to open international publication, there are many informal types of essential scientific communication, including circulation of prepublication drafts, discussions at scientific meetings, special seminars, and personal communications.
THE CURRENT CONTROL SYSTEM
The government can restrict scientific communication in various ways. First, information bearing a particularly close relationship to national security may be subject to classification. This is the most stringent of the control systems because it serves to bar all unauthorized access.
Second, communications with foreign nationals may be restricted by export controls, such as those established by the Export Administration Act (EAA) and its associated Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and by the Arms Export Control Act and its associated International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).1 Unless an exemption (or
“general license”) applies, both systems require prior governmental approval for transfer of technical data—either in written or oral communication—to foreign nationals. Neither EAR nor ITAR is aimed at general scientific communication, and the Constitution limits the government’s ability to restrain such communication. Nonetheless, some of the current discussion has focused on the application of export controls to scientific communication. This has proved particularly troubling to the research community in that the current control system appears to be vague in its reach, potentially disruptive, and hard to understand.
Third, the government can include controls on communications in the legal instrument defining the obligations of a recipient of government research funds. A proposal currently under consideration by the Department of Defense would require a DOD funding recipient to allow the government the opportunity for prepublication review of manuscripts dealing with certain research areas of national security concern.
Fourth, the government could attempt to influence conduct by seeking a voluntary agreement with researchers to limit the flow of technical information. Such an agreement is in place to enable the National Security Agency to review manuscripts dealing with cryptography and to negotiate alterations before publication.
Finally, communication with foreign nationals might be inhibited indirectly by limiting their access to the United States. The government can deny a visa request or impose restrictions on activities in this country. In addition, the government can directly regulate the admission of Soviet and East European visitors under particular scientific exchange agreements.
COSTS AND BENEFITS OF CONTROLS
Controls on scientific communications can be considered in the light of several national objectives. Controls can be seen to strengthen national security by preventing the use of American results to advance Soviet military strength. But they can also be seen to weaken both military and economic capacities by restricting the mutually beneficial interaction of scientific investigators, inhibiting the flow of research results into military and civilian technology, and lessening the capacity of universities to train advanced researchers. Finally, the imposition of such controls may well erode important educational and cultural values.
With respect to controls and Soviet military gains, the Panel notes that while overall a serious technology transfer problem exists, leakage from the research community has not represented a material danger relative to that from other sources. However, some university scientists will continue to expand their research beyond basic scientific investigations into the application of science to technologies with military relevance. This raises the possibility that the university campus will come to be viewed as a place providing much better opportunities for the illegal acquisition of technology. Information that is of special concern is the “know-how” that is gained by extended participation in U.S. research projects.
With respect to U.S. military and economic progress, controls may slow the rate of scientific advance and thus reduce the rate of technological innovation. Controls also impose economic costs for U.S. high-technology firms, which affect both their prices and their market share in international commerce. Controls may also limit university research and teaching in important areas of technology. The projected shortage of science and engineering talent can become the pacing factor in U.S. technological advance, so maintaining the flow of talented young people to military and commercial technology development efforts is particularly important. A national policy of security by accomplishment has much to recommend it over a policy of security by secrecy.
Apart from these considerations, the U.S. political system and culture are based on the principle of openness. Democracy demands an informed public, and this includes information on science and technology.
In addition, there are some inherent limits on the feasibility and effectiveness of controls. For example, controls cannot be expected to ensure long-term protection of sensitive information, given Soviet determination to procure data and the many parallel leakage channels, some of which are beyond U.S. jurisdiction. Finally, universities and most civilian research organizations lack the logistical capability to monitor the movement of information or personnel.
After weighing these benefits, costs, and feasibility assessments, the Panel arrived at a series of findings and recommendations.
PRINCIPAL FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Control of University Research Activities
The Panel found it possible to define three categories of university research. The first, and by far the largest share, are those activities in which the benefits of total openness overshadow their possible near-term military benefits to the Soviet Union. There are also those areas of research for which classification is clearly indicated. Between the two lies a a small “gray area” of research activities for which limited restrictions short of classification are appropriate.
The Panel’s criteria leave narrow gray areas for which, in a few instances, limited restrictions short of classification are appropriate. An example of such a gray area may be a situation, anticipated in large-scale integrated circuit work, in which on-campus research merges directly into process technology with possible military application. In its recommendations the Panel has formulated provisions that might be applicable to such a situation.
All parties have an interest in having research work done by the most qualified individuals and institutions and in educating a new generation of capable scientists and engineers. These objectives must fit, however, within a system that enables the government to classify work under its sponsorship in accordance with the law and that enables
the university to select only work compatible with its principal mission.
Unrestricted Areas of Research
The Panel recommends that no restriction of any kind limiting access or communication should be applied to any area of university research, be it basic or applied, unless it involves a technology meeting all the following criteria:
The technology is developing rapidly, and the time from basic science to application is short;
The technology has identifiable direct military applications; or it is dual-use and involves process or production-related techniques;
Transfer of the technology would give the U.S.S.R. a significant near-term military benefit; and
The U.S. is the only source of information about the technology, or other friendly nations that could also be the source have control systems as secure as ours.
The Panel recommends that if government-supported research demonstrably will lead to military products in a short time, classification should be considered. It should be noted that most universities will not undertake classified work, and some will undertake it only in off-campus facilities.
The Panel recommends that in the limited number of instances in which all of the above four criteria are met but classification is unwarranted, the values of open science can be preserved and the needs of government can met by written agreements no more restrictive than the following:
Prohibition of direct participation in government-supported research projects by nationals of designated foreign countries, with no attempt made to limit physical access to university space or facilities or enrollment in any classroom course of study. Where such prohibition has been imposed by visa or contractually agreed upon, it is not inappropriate for government-university contracts to permit the government to ask a university to report those instances coming to the university’s attention in which the stipulated foreign nationals seek participation in any such activities, however supported. It is recognized that some universities will regard such reporting
requests as objectionable. Such requests, however, should not require surveillance or monitoring of foreign nationals by the universities.
Submission of stipulated manuscripts simultaneously to the publisher and to the federal agency contract officer, with the federal agency then having 60 days to seek modifications in the manuscript. The review period is not intended to give the government the power to order changes: The right and freedom to publish remain with the university, as they do with all unclassified research. This does not, of course, detract from the government’s ultimate power to classify in accordance with law any research it has supported.
The Panel recommends that in cases where the government places such restrictions on scientific communication through contracts or other written agreements, it should be obligated to record and tabulate the instances of those restrictions on a regular basis.
The provisions of EAR and ITAR should not be invoked to deal with gray areas in government-funded university research.
The Export of Domestically Available Technical Data Under ITAR and EAR Regulations
ITAR and EAR should be applied only where they can be effective, and then evenly to scientific communication from both universities and industry. Scientists have broad constitutional rights to disseminate information domestically and, as a practical matter, information that is available domestically is also available abroad.
It is the Panel’s judgment that the national welfare, including national security, is best served by allowing the free flow of all scientific and technical information that is not directly and significantly connected with technology critical to national security. The Panel thus concludes that the government has the responsibility of defining in concrete terms those technical areas in which controls on information flow are warranted.
The Panel recommends that unclassified information that is available domestically should receive a general license (exemption) from the formal licensing process.
The Panel recommends that information that is not directly or significantly connected with technology critical to national security should also receive a general license (exemption) from the formal licensing process. The critical technology list approach—if carefully formulated—could serve to define those limited areas in which controls are appropriate.
The Use of Voluntary Controls
A system of voluntary controls has been inaugurated for prepublication review by the National Security Agency of manuscripts dealing with cryptography. The model established by this system may not be applicable to other areas because of the unique situation in the field of cryptography.
The Panel concludes that the voluntary publication control mechanism developed for cryptography is unlikely to be applicable to other research areas that bear on national security. However, the Panel recommends that consideration be given to adopting this mechanism in future cases, if and where the appropriate preconditions exist.
The Militarily Critical Technologies List
The MCTL is drawn under congressional mandate for reference in export control administration. Part of the list is classified, thus denying its use to some potential “exporters” of data. Moreover, the list covers a wide span from specific items of hardware to generic definitions of technologies. The current list covers about 700 pages. As it stands, and also as the Panel understands the pending revision, this list is not a useful tool in guiding control of scientific or technical communication.
The Panel recommends a drastic streamlining of the MCTL by reducing its overall size to concentrate on technologies that are truly critical to national security.
Technology Transfer to the Third World
The Panel has concentrated on the U.S.-U.S.S.R. relationship. However, there are clear problems in scientific communication and national security involving Third World countries. These problems in time might overshadow the Soviet dimension. This entire range of issues is both complex and important, and further intensive study is clearly indicated.
The Panel takes note of the current U.S. policy to help the People’s Republic of China (PRC) advance its industrial technology. It is generally recognized that the capacity of the PRC to transfer such technologies to the military sector is limited. This technical assistance policy is not reflected, however, in restrictions the government is imposing on cooperative research and activities of PRC students at U.S. universities.
The Panel notes that its deliberations did not extend to the complex issues raised by military-related technology
transfer from advanced industrial nations to Third World nations in regionally unstable areas or to those that may be potentially hostile to the United States and its allies. The Panel recommends that this subject receive further attention by the National Academy of Sciences or other qualified study groups under federal sponsorship.