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Scientific Communication and National Security (1982)

Chapter: 1 Current Knowledge About Unwanted Technology Transfer and Its Military Significance

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Suggested Citation:"1 Current Knowledge About Unwanted Technology Transfer and Its Military Significance." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1982. Scientific Communication and National Security. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/253.
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1
CURRENT KNOWLEDGE ABOUT UNWANTED TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER AND ITS MILITARY SIGNIFICANCE

This report is concerned with the benefits and costs of government controls on technology transfer, particularly as they apply to open scientific communication. To help gauge the potential impact of controls, the Panel on Scientific Communication and National Security undertook to gather available evidence on the extent and the military significance of past transfers.

The Panel took two steps to accomplish this objective. First, the Panel arranged extensive secret-level briefings (each followed by extensive open discussion) of the entire Panel by key spokesmen for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the U.S. intelligence community’s interagency Technology Transfer Intelligence Committee. Second, the Panel designated six members1 to participate in more extensive all-source briefings. This subpanel set its own detailed agenda for these special briefings and reported its findings to the Panel. For the unclassified version of the subpanel report, see Appendix A. The original version of the report, classified at the secret level, is available at the Academy to those with appropriate clearance.

The Panel believes that it has obtained the existing evidence on the extent and nature of technology transfers—particularly those transfers that have involved or originated from the U.S. research community. While there has been extensive transfer of U.S. technology of direct military relevance to the Soviet Union from a variety of sources, there is a strong consensus that scientific communication, including that involving the university community, appears to have been a very small part of this transfer up to the present time. Open communication on basic research results, which is an essential part of this nation’s open society and research process, has, however, contributed to the scientific knowledge base of the Soviet Union as well as to that of other nations.

1  

John Deutch, James Killian, Franklin Lindsay, Wolfgang Panofsky, Samuel Phillips, and Elmer Staats.

Suggested Citation:"1 Current Knowledge About Unwanted Technology Transfer and Its Military Significance." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1982. Scientific Communication and National Security. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/253.
×

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

Suggested Citation:"1 Current Knowledge About Unwanted Technology Transfer and Its Military Significance." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1982. Scientific Communication and National Security. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/253.
×

TABLE 1 Potential Technology Transfer Channels

Overt

Covert

  1. Legal Direct Equipment Purchases

  2. Legal Third-Country Purchases

  3. Equipment Captured in Wars

  4. Legal Licenses and Patents

  5. Turn-Key Plant Sales

  6. Joint Ventures

  7. Direct Commercial Know-How

  8. Trade Shows, Exhibits, Conferences

  9. Academic Exchanges

  10. Open Literature, Including Government Publications

  11. Deliberate U.S. Government Leaks

  1. Illegal Direct Equipment Purchases

  2. Illegal Third-Country Diversions

  3. Bribes to Western Nationals

  4. Third-Country Visitors to United States

  5. Industrial Espionage

  6. Foreign Agents

adversary to direct its acquisition effort to the least well policed and potentially most productive of these many channels is a major challenge to the United States, particularly when many channels are beyond the immediate control of the American government.

The Role of the Research Community

With respect to transfers involving the research community, it is useful to distinguish four types of information that may be of interest to foreign governments: (1) scientific theory; (2) knowledge of activities and progress in specific scientific fields; (3) information that is embodied in scientific and technical equipment; and (4) experimentation and procedural know-how—detailed knowledge, much of it gained through direct observation and experience with scientific and technical techniques. The mechanisms for transferring these different types of information vary considerably. The first two types, for example, are transmitted in the written and oral messages commonly exchanged freely among researchers—not least in open publications. Equipment transfer involves the physical transportation of objects. The transfer of know-how involves information that is generally not captured in scientific papers. The transfer mechanism for such detailed information involves neither documents nor equipment, but more typically is the “apprenticing” experience that takes place, among other means, through long-term scientific exchanges that involve actual participation in ongoing research. This last type of scientific communication is a leading concern of the U.S. intelligence community.

Suggested Citation:"1 Current Knowledge About Unwanted Technology Transfer and Its Military Significance." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1982. Scientific Communication and National Security. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/253.
×

THE SOVIET ACQUISITION EFFORT

The Overall Problem

Systematic acquisition of Western technology has been a goal of Russian policy since well before the Russian Revolution of 1917. The current effort is pervasive, highly organized, dynamic, and well targeted. The effort is directed from the highest levels in the Soviet government; it involves Soviet intelligence services (e.g, the Committee for State Security—the KGB); the powerful Military-Industrial Commission (VPK), which is the central coordinating agency for all Soviet military R&D; the State Committee for Science and Technology (GKNT); and the Academy of Sciences (ASUSSR). The Soviets also make extensive use of satellite countries’ intelligence networks, and targets are chosen from among the easiest sources. It should not be assumed that the extensive technology agreements between Eastern European countries and U.S. allies have no connection with the Soviet appetite for knowledge about U.S. technologies.

The GKNT oversees attempts to acquire knowledge about existing and new technologies from Western universities and high-technology firms and, if unable to do so by legal means, turns to clandestine means.

Most of the Soviet collection of scientific and technological information is performed by overt means. One impressive example of this overt effort is the employment of an enormous work force—involving tens of thousands of people—for the task of sifting and routing unclassified materials from around the world, including those published by the U.S. National Technical Information Service (NTIS). Soviet science is part of the Soviet collection effort, to some extent reflecting a significant Soviet attempt in the last decade to bring Soviet science into the effort to foster military innovation.

Soviet scientists and students who participate in formal international exchange programs have been linked to the intelligence effort.2 One should assume that almost all Soviet technical visitors to the United States are prebriefed about specific acquisition needs, and it is certain that Soviet visitors to other countries are required to report on their foreign experiences. There is evidence that the quality of their reports is a possible factor in decisions about their future travel applications.

The KGB itself is known to have hundreds of “scientific officers” deployed throughout the world. In addition, a significant fraction of all Soviet scientific visitors are believed to have intelligence roles. The total number of visitors to the United States from other Warsaw Pact countries and Third World nations is much larger, and their U.S. travel is not controlled. Participation by some of them in Soviet collection efforts is certain.

2  

Soviet Acquisition of Western Technology, April 1982, pp. 1–5.

Suggested Citation:"1 Current Knowledge About Unwanted Technology Transfer and Its Military Significance." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1982. Scientific Communication and National Security. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/253.
×

The Role of the Research Community

Officials in U.S. intelligence agencies have said that only a small fraction of the overall Soviet bloc intelligence collection effort is directed at U.S. universities. It can include individual students and scholars nominated to participate in exchange programs with the West who are routinely screened by Soviet intelligence agencies. Some Third World students who visit the United States are questioned by Soviet intelligence agents, and some may actually be recruited for intelligence roles. A recent trend in the collection effort aimed at the U.S. research community is an increased effort focusing on newly emerging technologies, particularly those that evolve directly from scientific research.

EVIDENCE OF THE EXTENT OF UNWANTED TRANSFER

The Overall Problem

Statements by intelligence community officials3 indicate that about 70 percent of the militarily significant technology acquired by the Soviet Union has been acquired through Soviet and East European intelligence organizations, using both overt and covert methods. Most of the rest is acquired through legal purchases of equipment or data, publications, and through other Soviet organizations. The overall leakage is impressive; Table 2 shows examples provided by the intelligence community for just a single field, microelectronics.

The Role of the Research Community

Only “a small percentage” of the Soviet acquisition of militarily relevant information is said to come from communications involving scientists and students.4 The Panel’s inquiry revealed that specific evidence of such collections of information from U.S. sources almost always involved episodes in which visitor status was abused by Eastern bloc scientists. These reported activities cover incidents that did not clearly threaten U.S. security. Reported episodes have included cases in which (a) the visitor’s technical activities and studies went beyond his or her agreed field of study; (b) the visitor’s time was poorly accounted for, including reports of excessive time spent collecting information (e.g., in the library) not related to his or her field of study; (c) the visitor, either successfully or unsuccessfully, attempted to evade visa or exchange agreement restrictions imposed on

3  

Statement of Admiral B.R.Inman for the May 11, 1982, Senate Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Investigations Hearing on Technology Transfer (see Appendix H).

4  

Statement of Admiral B.R.Inman, May 11, 1982 (see Appendix H).

Suggested Citation:"1 Current Knowledge About Unwanted Technology Transfer and Its Military Significance." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1982. Scientific Communication and National Security. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/253.
×

TABLE 2 Microelectronic Equipment and Technology Legally and Illegally Acquired by the Soviet Bloc

Equipment or Technology

Comments

Process Technology for Microelectronic Wafer Preparation

The Soviets have acquired hundreds of specific pieces of equipment related to wafer preparation, including epitaxial growth furnaces, crystal pullers, rinsers/dryers, slicers, and lapping and polishing units.

Process Technology for Producing Circuit Masks

Many acquisitions in this area include computer-aided design software, pattern generators and compilers, digital plotters, photorepeaters, contact printers, mask comparators, electron-beam generators, and ion-milling equipment.

Equipment for Device Fabrication

Many hundreds of acquisitions in this area have provided the Soviets with mask aligners, diffusion furnaces, ion implanters, coaters, etchers, and photochemical process lines.

Assembly and Test Equipment

Hundreds of items of Western equipment, including scribers, bonders, probe testers, and final test equipment, have been acquired by the Soviets.

SOURCE: Soviet Acquisition of Western Technology, p. 9.

his or her itinerary; and (d) in one or two incidents a visitor participated in clearly illegal activities of an intelligence nature. The U.S. government, of course, is concerned about unwanted transfers even when visitors stay within their agreed-upon programs of study.

EVIDENCE OF THE SOVIET ABSORPTION CAPACITY

One should not necessarily equate foreign acquisition of sensitive technology with improvement of foreign military capabilities. Such improvements can occur only after an intermediate step is passed, namely, the successful exploitation of the acquired information.

Evidence of Soviet efficiency in absorbing Western technology is fragmentary and conflicting. On the one hand, there are indications of

Suggested Citation:"1 Current Knowledge About Unwanted Technology Transfer and Its Military Significance." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1982. Scientific Communication and National Security. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/253.
×

inhibiting tendencies in the Soviet system, including weak incentives to Soviet military designers to innovate, the fact that the acquisition effort is large and complex enough to assure inefficiencies in transferring information to those who have requested it, and the adverse effects of compartmentalization among Soviet scientists and engineers. On the other hand, the Soviet Union places a very high value on improving its military capabilities and may be able to overcome such impediments.

EVIDENCE OF THE MILITARY SIGNIFICANCE OF TECHNOLOGY LOSSES

The Overall Problem

There is no question that the overall loss of U.S. technologies from all sources to the Soviet Union has been extensive. The intelligence community has provided examples of Soviet acquisition of important technology (see Table 3).

The Panel has no reason to doubt government assertions that such acquisitions from the West have permitted the Soviet military to develop countermeasures to Western weapons, improve Soviet weapon performance, avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in R&D costs, and modernize critical sectors of Soviet military production.

The Role of the Research Community

With respect to the narrower question of losses associated with U.S. universities and other research organizations, discussions of the Panel with representatives of all U.S. intelligence agencies failed to reveal specific evidence of damage to U.S. national security caused by information obtained from U.S. academic sources. The reported episodes of abuses by Warsaw Pact visitors are disturbing, but they have not provided evidence of military consequences; the Panel’s examination of the reported episodes did not reveal any resulting benefits to identifiable Soviet military systems. This negative finding is open to varying interpretations, given the incomplete and anecdotal quality of the existing evidence.

PROJECTIONS FOR CHANGE

While there is no indication that transfers of information involving the research community have, in the past, accounted for more than a very small part of the total leakage, the intelligence community believes that there is now a clear trend toward a greater Soviet effort to acquire information about technologies from universities and other research institutions. The factors cited to support this view are:

  1. An increased Soviet emphasis in the past decade on the acquisition of newly emerging Western technologies.

Suggested Citation:"1 Current Knowledge About Unwanted Technology Transfer and Its Military Significance." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1982. Scientific Communication and National Security. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/253.
×

TABLE 3 Selected Soviet and East European Legal and Illegal Acquisitions from the West Affecting Key Areas of Soviet Military Technology

Key Technology Area

Notable Success

Computers

Purchases and acquisitions of complete systems designs, concepts, hardware and software, including a wide variety of Western general_ purpose computers and minicomputers, for military applications.

Microelectronics

Complete industrial processes and semiconductor manufacturing equipment capable of meeting all Soviet military requirements, if acquisitions were combined.

Signal Processing

Acquisitions of processing equipment and know-how.

Manufacturing

Acquisitions of automatic and precision manufacturing equipment for electronics, materials, and optical and future laser weapons technology; acquisition of information on manufacturing technology related to weapons, ammunition, and aircraft parts, including turbine blades, computers, and electronic components; acquisition of machine tools for cutting large gears for ship propulsion systems.

Communications

Acquisitions of low-power, low-noise, high-sensitivity receivers.

Lasers

Acquisition of optical, pulsed power source, and other laser-related components, including special optical mirrors and mirror technology suitable for future laser weapons.

Guidance and Navigation

Acquisitions of marine and other navigation receivers, advanced inertial-guidance components, including miniature and laser gyros; acquisitions of missile guidance subsystems; acquisitions of precision machinery for ball-bearing production for missile and other applications; acquisition of missile test range instrumentation systems and documentation and precision cinetheodolites for collecting data critical to postflight ballistic missile analysis.

Structural Materials

Purchases and acquisitions of Western titanium alloys, welding equipment, and furnaces for producing titanium plate of large size applicable to submarine construction.

Propulsion

Missile technology; some ground propulsion technology (diesels, turbines, and rotaries); purchases and acquisitions of advanced jet engine fabrication technology and jet engine design information.

Acoustical Sensors

Acquisitions of underwater navigation and direction-finding equipment.

Electro-optical Sensors

Acquisition of information on satellite technology, laser rangefinders, and underwater low-light-level television cameras and systems for remote operation.

Radars

Acquisitions and exploitations of air defense radars and antenna designs for missile systems.

Suggested Citation:"1 Current Knowledge About Unwanted Technology Transfer and Its Military Significance." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1982. Scientific Communication and National Security. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/253.
×
  1. A belief that U.S. universities are expanding their participation in such research areas, particularly in process technologies.

  2. A forecast that, as the government tightens its controls on other domestic sources of information and works with its allies to reduce third-country losses, foreign acquisition efforts will be increasingly redirected toward research institutions.

The Panel does not believe that it is yet possible to draw conclusions about this view. Even accepting the observation that Soviet collection efforts are being focused on the science underlying high-technology military applications, it does not follow that this is necessarily damaging to the United States. The concentration on basic science means that the military benefits to the Soviet Union would be long-range benefits that could become available to them from non-U.S. sources anyway. If the government succeeds in tightening the controls over loss mechanisms other than those associated with scientific communication in the United States, the loss through U.S. research institutions may become more significant. However, these other loss mechanisms are highly varied, and current Western control mechanisms, although improving, have far to go. Some of these inadequacies are structural, such as the limited membership and coverage of the Coordinating Committee (COCOM), an informal international organizaion for the coordination of national export controls; others have to do with the difficulties in preventing Soviet collection of information from nonaligned nations; and still others are due to limited resources and divided organizational responsibility.

For these reasons the Panel does not believe that a useful forecast can be made at present concerning the future proportion of leakage to the Soviet bloc through scientific communication.

Suggested Citation:"1 Current Knowledge About Unwanted Technology Transfer and Its Military Significance." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1982. Scientific Communication and National Security. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/253.
×
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Suggested Citation:"1 Current Knowledge About Unwanted Technology Transfer and Its Military Significance." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1982. Scientific Communication and National Security. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/253.
×
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Suggested Citation:"1 Current Knowledge About Unwanted Technology Transfer and Its Military Significance." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1982. Scientific Communication and National Security. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/253.
×
Page 15
Suggested Citation:"1 Current Knowledge About Unwanted Technology Transfer and Its Military Significance." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1982. Scientific Communication and National Security. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/253.
×
Page 16
Suggested Citation:"1 Current Knowledge About Unwanted Technology Transfer and Its Military Significance." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1982. Scientific Communication and National Security. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/253.
×
Page 17
Suggested Citation:"1 Current Knowledge About Unwanted Technology Transfer and Its Military Significance." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1982. Scientific Communication and National Security. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/253.
×
Page 18
Suggested Citation:"1 Current Knowledge About Unwanted Technology Transfer and Its Military Significance." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1982. Scientific Communication and National Security. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/253.
×
Page 19
Suggested Citation:"1 Current Knowledge About Unwanted Technology Transfer and Its Military Significance." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1982. Scientific Communication and National Security. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/253.
×
Page 20
Suggested Citation:"1 Current Knowledge About Unwanted Technology Transfer and Its Military Significance." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1982. Scientific Communication and National Security. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/253.
×
Page 21
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The military, political, and economic preeminence of the United States during the post-World War II era is based to a substantial degree on its superior rate of achievement in science and technology, as well as on its capacity to translate these achievements into products and processes that contribute to economic prosperity and the national defense. The success of the U.S. scientific enterprise has been facilitated by many factors, important among them the opportunity for American scientists and engineers to pursue their research-and to communicate with each other-in a free and open environment.

During the last two administrations, however, concern has arisen that the characteristically open U.S. scientific community has served as one of the channels through which critical information and know-how are flowing to the Soviet Union and to other potential adversary countries; openness in science is thus perceived to present short-term national security risks in addition to its longer-term national security benefits in improved U.S. military technology.

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. The Panel held three two-day meetings in Washington at which it was briefed by representatives of the departments of Defense, State, and Commerce, and by representatives of the intelligence community, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency. The Panel also heard presentations by members of the research community and by university representatives. In addition to these briefings, the Rand Corporation prepared an independent analysis of the transfer of sensitive technology from the United States to the Soviet Union. To determine the views of scientists and administrators at major research universities, the Panel asked a group of faculty members and administrative officials at Cornell University to prepare a paper incorporating their own views and those of counterparts at other universities.

The main thrust of the Panel's findings is completely reflected in this document. However, the Panel has also produced a classified version of the subpanel report based on the secret intelligence information it was given; this statement is available at the Academy to those with the appropriate security clearance.

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