Proliferation of Militarily Relevant Technologies
Maintaining the U.S. Lead in Core Technology Competencies
Promoting the Global Information Infrastructure
The U.S. security interest in slowing the spread of advanced information technologies is straightforward. Precise navigation and imagery in the wrong hands can imperil U.S. forces. Space-based communications reduces the U.S. advantage in military command-and-control. Cryptographic capabilities could permit terrorists to plan havoc undetected. Space launch capabilities can lead to ballistic missile proliferation that destabilizes regions. And so on.
If it were possible to deny such technologies to potential adversaries only, such policies would find universal approval in this country. In practice, this is rarely possible. Further, such technologies--unlike, say, the technologies of nuclear weapons production--have many legitimate civilian applications. As a result, tradeoffs must be made, and tricky questions must be answered. Can judicious release of some services such as satellite imagery dissuade other nations from developing the technologies that make such services possible? Would restricting the exports of one product (say, satellites) in order to inhibit vendors of another (rockets) in fact encourage the proliferation of both? Should the U.S. attempt to control the export of technologies for which foreign substitutes might be readily available? What are the possible economic costs to U.S. firms associated with over-regulating such exports? Finally, why must the export of dual-use technologies carry an implied moral onus, when such technologies have many innocent, even beneficial uses?
Top of Section
If U.S. firms cannot export certain technologies freely, they may be deemed unreliable by potential customers, who will turn to others. Lost sales mean lost resources for product R&D, with the attendant risk of falling behind in technology. Many analysts are coming to the conclusion that dual-use, high technology exports are crucial to U.S. economic health in an increasingly competitive world economy. Therefore, many dual-use technologies (GPS, space imagery, cryptography) cannot be denied to overseas customers without undermining economic growth and the U.S. technological lead--the bedrock of U.S. national security.
Top of Section
The elimination of political and technological impediments to the free exchange of information is likely to hasten the international dissemination of U.S. political and economic values, and therefore to enhance U.S. national security. The growth of the GII and the diffusion of dual-use information technologies does foster such a world--despite the security concerns raised by the latter.