Export Controls:

Inadequate Justification for Relaxation of Computer Controls Demonstrates Need for Comprehensive Study

GAO-01-534T: Published: Mar 15, 2001. Publicly Released: Mar 15, 2001.

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The President's January 2001 changes in the export control thresholds for high performance computer exports are not adequately justified. Although the President's report recognizes that high performance computing capabilities will become increasingly available to other countries through computer clustering, the report fails to address all military significant uses for computers at the new thresholds and assess the national security impact of such uses. The support for the President's policy proposal for relaxed U.S. computer controls also is not adequate. Although the new policy was based on the conclusion that computer hardware exports can no longer be controlled, the executive branch did not adequately assess alternative control options. GAO identified several implications of the changes to the control thresholds and the proposed change in U.S. computer export control policy related to increased risks for U.S. national security. For example, the inadequacies of the President's justifications demonstrate the need for a comprehensive study of the issues involved. Furthermore, the policy proposal would reduce information that might be useful in detecting patterns of exports to customers engaged in proliferation activities because it would eliminate an annual reporting requirement that provides information on end users. This testimony summarized a December report (GAO-01-10).

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