Export Controls:

National Security Risks and Revisions To Controls on Computers

T-NSIAD-00-104: Published: Feb 28, 2000. Publicly Released: Feb 28, 2000.


Benjamin F. Nelson
(202) 512-3000


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed its recent reports on export controls for high performance computers, focusing on how the executive branch: (1) assesses the national security risks associated with the export of high performance computers going to countries of concern; and (2) determines when the exports of computers at existing performance levels can no longer be controlled.

GAO noted that: (1) the executive branch has not yet clearly articulated the specific national security interests to be protected in controlling the export of computers at various performance levels, nor has it stated how countries of military concern could benefit from using such computers; (2) without a clear statement of these interests, it is unclear how the executive branch determines what are militarily critical applications that may affect U.S. national security; (3) in addition, the executive branch has revised export controls on computers because it believes that these machines, at the previously approved levels, had become so widely available in the market that their export is uncontrollable; and (4) however, GAO could not assess the justification for the July 1999 export control levels because the terms "widely available" and "uncontrollable" used to explain the policy change are not clearly defined and are not found in law or regulation.

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