Foreign Technology:

Collection and Dissemination of Japanese Information Can Be Improved

NSIAD-93-251: Published: Sep 30, 1993. Publicly Released: Sep 30, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed U.S. and Japanese organizations' collection and dissemination of foreign technology information, focusing on: (1) the Japanese and U.S. governments' processes for performing these functions; (2) Japanese officials' views on successful foreign technology collection and dissemination efforts; and (3) the collection efforts of U.S. government organizations in Japan.

GAO found that: (1) the Japanese government's process for collecting and disseminating foreign technology information is highly centralized, uses extensive networks between officials and researchers in government, industry, and academia, builds a consensus on what technologies to monitor, and uses considerable resources to collect and disseminate information for commercial purposes; (2) Japanese officials believe that most technology information is collected by private companies; (3) the U.S. government has a decentralized process that relies on civilian and defense government agencies to collect information pertinent to their missions and is primarily defense-oriented; (4) the Department of Commerce does not collect foreign technology information or coordinate activities; (5) Japanese officials believe that a successful technology information collecting and dissemination system includes determining and providing the foreign technology information that customers want and need, maintaining a cooperative government-industry relationship, treating technology monitoring as an integral part of an organization's operations, and locating operations in the target country; (6) few U.S. government organizations in Japan have reevaluated and revised their missions to reflect changes in international science and technology affairs; and (7) U.S. organizations' collection efforts are limited because they do not identify the demand for and usefulness of their information to potential customers, coordinate activities among various civilian and military offices, or provide appropriate background and language skills for its information collectors.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation. DOD and the Department of Commerce are part of the State Department's interagency group established to plan how to better accomplish the subject mission. The group developed a plan for improved integration and use of U.S. government and private-sector assets involved in technical information collection in Japan. In addition, DOD responded that the establishment of the Technology Initiative Policy in September 1993 was intended to strengthen cooperation in the development and exchange of defense-related and dual-use technologies. This initiative emphasizes the need to achieve a more balanced transfer of U.S. defense technologies through licensed production and joint research and development programs with transfers of defense-related technologies, dual-use as well as military, from Japan.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense and State, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce, should reevaluate the missions of their offices that monitor and disseminate foreign technology information in Japan in light of global economic and technical changes.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The State Department concurred with the recommendation and set up an ad hoc working-level interagency group on foreign science and technology information to better accomplish the subject mission. The working group, which includes representatives from DOD and the Department of Commerce, developed a plan for improved integration and use of U.S. government and private-sector assets involved in technical information collection in Japan. Also, the working group met in early January 1996 to clear the handbook entitled, "The Compendium of Foreign Science and Technology Information Sources in the Federal Government and Select Private Sector Organizations." The 13 participating agencies approved the handbook for public dissemination. The handbook will be available in hard copy, as well as electronically, through the Science and Technology Information System and its home page in the World Wide Web.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense and State, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce, should reevaluate the missions of their offices that monitor and disseminate foreign technology information in Japan in light of global economic and technical changes.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation and stated that the Defense Technology Office in Tokyo would add a statement to its quarterly report specifically requesting consumer feedback and identification of consumer requirements.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense and State, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce, should require their offices in Japan to determine through sample surveys/evaluations: (1) the information needs of their customers and potential customers; (2) how well they are addressing these needs; and (3) how they can improve the usefulness of the information collected as well as their reporting formats and methods of dissemination.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The State Department stated that the recommendation was consistent with continuing U.S. government priorities in the area of data collection and dissemination. However, State does not plan to commence any new initiatives in response to the recommendation because it believes that it is explicitly incorporated in the mission assignments of the relevant offices in Japan.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense and State, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce, should require their offices in Japan to determine through sample surveys/evaluations: (1) the information needs of their customers and potential customers; (2) how well they are addressing these needs; and (3) how they can improve the usefulness of the information collected as well as their reporting formats and methods of dissemination.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred and agreed to take action to improve the coordination of foreign technology information. DOD believes that there is already substantive communication and informal coordination between the various U.S. government technology offices operating in Japan.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense and State, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce, should require their offices in Japan to coordinate and cooperate with other U.S. government organizations in the various federal agencies and laboratories that are monitoring and disseminating foreign technology information to make the best use of the federal resources that are being spent on these activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The State Department stated that technology gathering offices in Japan already communicate regularly and in depth with U.S. government consumers of the information they generate. Communication with private-sector consumers is best accomplished from within the United States through the National Technical Information Service (NTIS). This service regularly surveys its consumers to enhance the relevancy of the products that are available to the public.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense and State, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce, should require their offices in Japan to coordinate and cooperate with other U.S. government organizations in the various federal agencies and laboratories that are monitoring and disseminating foreign technology information to make the best use of the federal resources that are being spent on these activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation but added that its efforts are hampered by a severe shortage of suitably qualified personnel. As a result, DOD's technology office in Tokyo must rely primarily on: (1) language training for in-house personnel; (2) use of language-proficient personnel; and (3) the hiring of Japanese scientists and engineers. By using these approaches, the DOD technology offices have made significant progress in acquiring appropriate staff.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense and State, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce, should require their offices in Japan to hire or train staff with the appropriate background and language skills needed to effectively collect foreign technology information and/or assign teams of technical and nontechnical staff as well as staff with and without language skills to maximize staff capabilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to the Department of State, it continues to recruit or train language-proficient staff for future positions on a best-efforts basis. The Department stated that, especially considering federal budget constraints, it is difficult to lure highly trained technical experts fluent in Japanese away from higher-paying private-sector positions.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense and State, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce, should require their offices in Japan to hire or train staff with the appropriate background and language skills needed to effectively collect foreign technology information and/or assign teams of technical and nontechnical staff as well as staff with and without language skills to maximize staff capabilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

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