Key Issues > Ensuring the Effective Protection of Technologies Critical to U.S. National Security - High Risk Issue
defense icon, source: [West Covina, California] Progressive Management, 2008

Ensuring the Effective Protection of Technologies Critical to U.S. National Security - High Risk Issue

Technological superiority is critical to U.S. military strategy and a number of programs in the U.S. government identify and protect technologies, which require balancing national security concerns with economic interests.

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This key issue page is related to an area on GAO’s 2017 High Risk Update and will be updated shortly. In the meantime, visit the related High Risk area for the newest information.

As stated in GAO's 2015 High Risk report, technological superiority is critical to U.S. military strategy. As such, the Department of Defense (DOD) spends billions of dollars each year to develop and acquire sophisticated technologies to provide an advantage for the warfighter during combat or other missions. Many of these technologies are also sold or transferred to promote U.S. economic, foreign policy, and national security interests. These technologies can also be acquired through foreign investment in the U.S. companies that develop or manufacture them. In addition, they are targets for unauthorized transfer, such as theft, espionage, reverse engineering, and illegal export.

To identify and protect technologies critical to U.S. interests, the U.S. government has a number of programs. These include export controls—those developed to regulate exports and ensure that items and information are transferred to foreign parties in a manner consistent with U.S. interests—as well as a number of non-export control programs, including the Foreign Military Sales program, anti-tamper policies, and reviews of transactions that could result in control of a U.S. business by a foreign person. These programs are administered by multiple federal agencies with various interests, including DOD and the Departments of Commerce, Homeland Security, Justice, State, and the Treasury. GAO designated this area as high risk in 2007 because these programs, established decades ago, were ill-equipped to address the evolving 21st century challenge of balancing national security concerns and economic interests. While these agencies are making progress in addressing challenges, additional leadership coordination of existing programs, among other things, is needed to identify strategic reforms that will help to ensure the advancement of U.S. interests.

This High Risk Report is updated every two years, at the start of each new Congress. For more information on this High Risk Issue, see What We Found and What Remains to Be Done.

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