Department of Commerce gets an earful on proposed export rule changes

By David
August 23, 2005

At around 84 megabytes, the PDF file containing the largely negative response to the Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security’s (BIS’s) recent advanced notice of proposed rulemaking regarding proposed changes to U.S. deemed export regulations is one hefty document. It contains the comments of over 300 respondents — universities, researchers, scientists, medical organizations, technology associations (including USACM), and even the government of Canada — most of whom found the prospect of the proposed policy changes an unpleasant one; for example, some of the highlights:

* “QUALCOMM recommends that BIS continue its current policy and not adopt the … proposed place of birth rule, since to do so would cause absurd results in some cases, and impose significant burdens and risks on companies like QUALCOMM with little tangible effect on national security…” [Page 1083]

* “As long as 55 percent of the master’s degrees and 66 percent of the PhDs in electrical engineering at U.S. schools are awarded to foreign nationals, [Texas Instruments (TI)] will, by necessity, need to hire some foreign engineers. These individuals are among the most talented from their native countries. In addition, U.S. companies and taxpayers have already invested in them through support for university-based research. It is counterproductive to restrict these highly educated engineers from adding to TI’s competitive advantage…” [Page 829]

* “I [Dr. Helen Quinn] am a Professor of Physics at Stanford University and the Past President of the American Physical Society … While it is the intent of this rule to make the United States more secure, I submit that it will in fact do just the reverse. Both the security of the US and its economic viability are built on the technical capabilities of its industry, which in turn is built on the research capabilities of its Universities. In order to be at the forefront of science in the modern world Universities must be open to a steady flow of international collaborators and students through their laboratories. If we were to cut off this flow we would quickly become a backwater and soon lose our superiority …” [Page 1017]

* “[The American Association of Universities (AAU)] questions the fundamental premise of the Commerce OIG recommendations that equipment “used” in the conduct of fundamental research on university campuses should not be covered under the fundamental research exception. We believe that this notion is misguided and reflects a lack of understanding of how research and education are conducted in a campus environment. Moreover, it fails to recognize the inseparable nature of the tools used to conduct fundamental research and the research itself. We are concerned that, if implemented as proposed, the OIG recommendations would significantly damage university-based research and education — and actually harm our national and economic security — in an attempt to address unquantified and unidentified security risks …” [Page 956]

It will be interesting to see just how BIS reacts to all this negative feedback. We’ll keep you posted.