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ORAU and ORCAS Workshop Helps Expand Ongoing Dialog Between U.S. Universities, Federal Government on How to Conduct International Research While Protecting National Security

April 11, 2006

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—In recent years higher education has become a global enterprise, with American universities competing on a global stage for the best faculty and students and branching their campuses out into other countries. The large number of internationals on American campuses as well as the increasingly visible presence of American universities overseas presents both unique opportunities and complicated challenges related to protecting America’s national security and economic interests. These issues took center stage during a recent two-day workshop sponsored by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) and the Oak Ridge Center for Advanced Studies (ORCAS).

With attendees representing more than 50 universities from the ORAU Consortium and representatives from the Association of American Universities and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, "The Globalization of the University and Deemed Export Policy" workshop hosted by ORCAS provided a forum for the continuing dialog between academic and government leaders, including members of the Department of Commerce (DOC), which oversees the export of American technology. Workshop attendees heard presentations ranging from reports about Texas A&M’s campus in Qatar and Georgia Tech’s campus in the Lorraine region of France, to a presentation by the National Counterintelligence Executive’s office about its protection of sensitive technologies from foreign spies.

Of particular concern at the workshop was the "Deemed Export Policy" which derives its name from language in the Export Administration Act of 1979. Under its terms, the act states that the “release of controlled technology to foreign nationals, including foreign visitors or workers at U.S. private, public or government research laboratories is deemed to be an export to the home country of the foreign national."

As an outcome of the event, ORAU President Ron Townsend and ORCAS Director Paul Gilman sent a letter to David McCormick, Under Secretary of the DOC’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), thanking him for his department’s participation in the event, and pledging a commitment to further dialog on these issues.

"All participants left the meeting with a positive outlook about how the U. S. Department of Commerce has been seeking the perspective of its university constituents before taking action," Townsend said in the letter. "Therefore, as we move forward on the issue of deemed exports, we look forward to continuing our collaboration. We are eager to help the Department conduct any additional inquiries needed to better understand the full context of the research conducted at universities, the equipment used, by whom and how often, existing technology and security controls on campus, and other items in which the Bureau of Industry and Security has expressed interest."

Jim Roberto, the deputy director for science and technology at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), spoke at the workshop and said the release of controlled technology to internationals is a critical issue for the lab.

"Deemed export policy is a top problem. The playing field is changing faster than our policies can adapt. We wrestle with balancing science and national security," Roberto said. "If we were doing this workshop 10 years ago we might have a different answer; if we do it 10 years from now we might get a different answer. Part of the problem is there’s a moving target here as the world changes before us. We want to build bridges, we want to break down barriers, but we want to do it in a responsible way."

Lee Williams, vice president for research and dean of the Graduate College at the University of Oklahoma as well as chairman of the ORAU Board of Directors, told conference attendees there is significant tension on the deemed export issue for universities because the nature of their work historically has been to share their successes as widely as possible rather than to restrict the flow of information in any way.

"The issues of deemed export policies, just in the last couple of years have really come to a head. How do you respond to these issues of the legitimate concerns of the export of information and knowledge balanced against the intrinsic sense of an academic environment where our mission is the creation and dissemination of knowledge?" Williams said.

From the government’s perspective, Matthew Borman, who is the acting assistant secretary for export administration in the Department of Commerce, said the purpose of the deemed export policy is not to restrict technological advances but to protect national security and the nation’s economic interests. He told the workshop attendees that his department believes open dialog is critical to creating policy that works cooperatively to achieve both security and innovation rather than pitting the two against each other.

In their letter, Townsend and Gilman also expressed their hope that future interaction between the BIS and America’s research universities would grow and would also involve agencies such as the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health. An increased level of dialog will help ensure that government and academic institutions can pursue building America’s technology leadership on a global level while keep the country safe, they said.

"We look forward to helping you develop and formalize a process that would ensure that the useful dialogue that has emerged between research universities and BIS during the past year continues, and that any major policy changes with regards to deemed export policy and research universities are well thought through so as to enable an increased national security policy that does not impede critical scientific research," Townsend said.

To learn more about the workshop and view all of the conference materials, please visit the official Web site.

ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

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