Congressman Adam Smith praised a report issued today by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington, DC think tank, which called for broad reform of our nation's export control regime as it relates to high performance computer systems.
"The export control regime in place today is grounded in the past and doesn't recognize the realities of today's 'networked world'," said Smith, who served as a member of the CSIS "Blue Ribbon Commission on Technology and National Security in a Networked World," which developed this report.
"I'm pleased that CSIS – led by some of the nation's leading defense experts – recognizes the need to fundamentally revamp the way we protect our nation's security," Smith continued. "The bottom line is that export control reform is critical to the future of U.S. global economic, technological and military leadership, and I look forward to working with the Administration and my colleagues in Congress to advance some of the key recommendations of this important report."
A growing number of leaders in government and industry recognize that modernization of our nation's outdated export control regime is essential if the United States is to remain the world's leader in technology and innovation. The CSIS report is an important first step toward the development of a more effective, forward-looking system of export controls that can account for rapid developments in technology and international market conditions.
As a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Smith has been engaged in this issue throughout his service in Congress. Recently, he cosponsored legislation (H.R. 1553) which would repeal current export controls on high performance computers and would allow the Bush Administration to work with Congress, the national security community, and the computer industry to develop a better approach to protect our national security and allow our computer industry to compete globally.
Currently, due to language included in the 1997 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the export control system is based on a measurement known as MTOPS (millions of theoretical operations per second). This metric, created by the government, has been found to be "outdated" and invalid by both the Department of Defense and the General Accounting Office in separate reports. In today's networked world, computer hardware controls are ineffective and, as the Defense Science Board concluded in another report, they have a "stifling effect on the U.S. military's rate of technological advancement" because they restrict U.S. companies' revenues for future research and development.
The CSIS report says that controls based on MTOPS are increasingly "irrelevant" because foreign organizations can link many less-powerful computers together to perform complex calculations. Instead, the U.S. should focus efforts on protecting technologies that we can control, for example: tightening controls surrounding sensitive military software that could be used for designing sophisticated weapons.
"I have two main goals related to export control reform," commented Smith. "First, we need to protect what's important, like high end software for example, instead of spending resources to build walls around computer hardware that is commercially available from foreign suppliers. Second, we must take steps to ensure that the U.S. remains the world's technology superpower. This involves improving our military's IT capacity, enhancing our critical infrastructure, investing in much-needed research and development, and recruiting the best and brightest technology staffers to serve our nation's military. I'm fully committed to accomplishing these goals."