The new General Accountability Office (GAO) has a very un-sexy title-- one that might make you skip paying any attention to it altogether: "EXPORT CONTROLS: State and Commerce Should Improve Guidance and Outreach to Address University-Specific Compliance Issues."
But it's actually on a topic of grave importance to national security and protection of U.S. intellectual property: attempts by foreign countries to spy on and steal U.S. research from America's universities and colleges.
[T]here is a risk that some foreign students and scholars will transfer or “export” sensitive information they gain through their research in the United States back to their home countries, which may be hostile to U.S. interests. If such transfers include information about sensitive civilian or defense-related technologies, they could have significant consequences for U.S. national security. Similarly, unlawful transfers of such information can have adverse consequences for U.S. economic interests.GAO, May 12, 2020
U.S. officials, including Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have long been raising red flags about foreign access to proprietary and sensitive information and technology at American universities.
China, Russia and Iran are "actively working to illicitly acquire and transfer technologies" from the U.S., according to government officials.
The GAO says that China, in particular, "seeks to exploit the openness of American society, especially academia and the scientific community." The new GAO report found weaknesses in controls of the transfer of information from colleges and universities.
According to GAO, the largest number of foreign students at U.S. universities in 2018 were from China: 420,077.
Next in line is India with two-third the number: 266,295.
"Federal agencies need to do a better job of communicating with U.S. research institutions to thwart foreign theft," says Sen. Grassley, who requested the GAO report. “I’ve been raising concerns about foreign threats to U.S. research for years, and this report just underscores the need for continued close scrutiny of the issue and a coordinated government effort to protect sensitive research and technology. Countries like China are making efforts to steal our most sensitive research and then weaponizing it against us. Universities and research institutions have a critical role to play in protecting this cutting edge research, but they can’t act if the guidance and regulations from agencies is unclear or insufficient."
According to Grassley, "China leverages its presence in American colleges and universities to spread pro-China propaganda and steal intellectual property." Last March, Grassley encouraged all schools with an active Confucius Institute to coordinate to get a briefing from the FBI on how the institutes "seed pro-China sentiments within U.S. academia."
Read the GAO report by clicking the link below: