Proposed Export Controls Concern Universities
Heads of CalTech, UCSD, other schools say research could be hampered
SAN DIEGO - 09/27/04 - The heads of several major California research universities have joined forces with their counterparts across the country to communicate their concern that export control regulations proposed by Washington "could hamper university research involving foreign nationals" and, in effect, "create two classes of students," reports the San Diego Business Journal.
In a recent letter to Condolezza Rice, President Bush'../eWebPhotos/innovate2a.jpg" align=left vspace=15 border=0>adviser, and three other senior Bush Administration officials, the educators assert that the recommendations made in a March 2004 Department of Commerce report would narrow the definition of "fundamental research," which is generally exempted from export controls, and, at the same time, "expand the definition of so-called deemed exports."
"Deemed exports" occur when technology is given to foreign nationals when they are in the US versus exporting the technology in question overseas.
Technology includes access to controlled equipment as well as know-how a foreign national might take away in technical or scientific information.
According to Marye Anne Fox, chancellor of the University of California - San Diego (UCSD), the export controls "are just one of several national security restrictions universities struggle with."
Other issues, she told the paper, include "the slow pace of visa application approvals and uncertainties created by the existence of so-called 'sensitive but unclassified research' that makes it difficult to determine what information can be disclosed."
The export control license proposals could make it difficult for UCSD to work with certain industries, she said.
Printed under the letterhead of Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Charles Vest, the letter was signed by the chancellors and presidents of 21 leading universities, including the Pasadena-based California Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
University of California System President Robert Dynes - a physicist who was chancellor of UCSD from 1996 to 2003 - also signed the letter.
UC spokeswoman Abby Lunardini told the paper that the proposals could affect research areas such as silicon chips, high-end computing, and satellite technology that are dominant at US universities, particularly those in California.
The regulation proposals were made in a report to the DOC's Bureau of Industry and Security, which oversees the Export Administration Regulations governing dual-use technologies on the US government's Commerce Control List. The term dual-use refers to technologies that have civilian and military applications.
According to the bureau's statistics, the majority of deemed export license applications in 2003 involved computer technology, followed by telecommunications and information security, and electronics.
Also on the list, it said, were propulsion systems and space vehicles, navigation and avionics, lasers and sensors, chemicals, microorganisms and toxins, and materials processing technology.
The report in question is part of an eight-year review of export controls mandated by Congress.
The review was prompted by concerns that holes in the export control system make it easier to steal US technologies for ill purposes, according to Jill Gross, the Commerce Department's assistant inspector general for inspections and program evaluations.
Gross did not know the status of the proposed changes, which include requiring US entities to apply for deemed export licenses for foreign nationals that have access to dual-use technology even when they are permanent residents of the US or citizens of a country that is not a security concern. The requirement would include visiting scholars, faculty, and students.
According to the Journal, research universities are concerned this proposed regulation would create two classes of students on campus, violating the principle of openness cherished by academia while creating a bureaucratic nightmare.
The educators who drafted the letter estimate that large research universities would have to apply for thousands of export licenses annually to meet the new requirement.
By comparison, of the 12,446 export control license applications reviewed by the Bureau of Industry and Security in fiscal 2003, only about 846, or 7%, were for deemed exports to foreign nationals, according to the report.
Richard Attiyeh, UCSD's vice chancellor for research and dean of graduate students, told the paper that the proposals, if adopted, could result in some students being prohibited from entering into certain laboratories that are essential to their education.
"It's hard to evaluate the impact because we haven't had this experience before," he said. "Our biggest concern is that we not be forced to discriminate in terms of the educational experience for students based on their citizenship."
According to Lunardini, UC schools, like all universities, are required to track foreign students using an Immigration and Naturalization Service computer system.
However, students who are permanent residents of the US are not entered into that system or tracked.
The report said permanent residents "have been exempted from deemed export controls because it is assumed those individuals have made a commitment to the US."
But, the report states that a foreign national may remain a permanent resident without ever becoming a US citizen and "could travel freely to their home country with controlled technology."
According to Attiyeh, limiting foreign students' access to US research "could have negative security consequences by driving affected students to study in other countries."
Foreign students of US universities, he said, "frequently remain in the United States and continue to contribute to innovation here. Moreover, he said, when those students do return home, they take positive impressions of American institutions and culture that turn them essentially into 'goodwill ambassadors' for the United States - a powerful diplomatic tool."
The proposals would also change a policy initiated in the 1980s by the Reagan Administration, and supported by Rice after the September 11 terrorist attacks, that exempts most fundamental research from export controls.
Fundamental research is defined as basic and applied research that will result in publication and be generally shared within the scientific community.
The report found that university and government officials interviewed during the investigations had differing interpretations of what constitutes basic and applied research.
Gross said the inspector general's staff was aware of researchers' concerns, but that ultimately, the decision rests with the Bureau of Industry and Security.
"The research needs may outweigh the other concerns," she said. "There may be ways to work it out."
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