Commerce Department Shelves “Deemed Export” Proposal

Update:: The Department of Commerce has released the formal Federal Register notice of its proposal to form an advisory committee.

Original Post 5/22/06: Last year, the Department of Commerce (followed by the Department of Defense) proposed broad new restrictions on foreign students access to potentially sensitive technology. USACM filed comments on both the proposals (Commerce, Defense) arguing that the new restrictions were overly burdensome, unclear and further exacerbated an already hostile atmosphere for foreign researchers working the United States. Bloomberg.com Canada is reporting that the Department is backing off their proposal in favor of a 12-member commission to review the issue.

Here is a quote from U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for Industry and Security, David MacCormick:

“I came to the conclusion it was a much sounder approach to actually think about the overarching policy and revisit basic assumptions and revisit objectives,” said McCormick.

Considering the Department’s proposal muddied the waters so badly that it could be interpreted that labs would have to restrict foreign researchers access to widely-published information (such as publicly available technical manuals), this is a wise course to take. However, commissions, if not properly balanced can do more harm than good by giving outside appropoval to an otherwise controversial idea. Given that there were over 300 comments (from industry, academia, and associations) filed against these proposed rules, I have some hope that the commission will, in fact, be balanced.

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