The Government Accountability Office is calling on federal agencies to take further steps to promote and strengthen mechanisms for collaboration among their programs for protecting advanced technologies designed to maintain U.S. superiority in military technology.

The U.S. government spends billions of dollars to develop and acquire such technologies each year, the report notes, and then permits and facilitates the sale and transfer of these technologies to allies to promote U.S. national security, foreign policy and economic interests. However, these technologies can be targets for theft, espionage, reverse engineering, illegal export and other forms of unauthorized transfer.

Accordingly, the U.S. government administers programs to identify and protect its critical technologies, including the following.

- International Traffic in Arms Regulations export controls (State Dept.)

- Export Administration Regulations export controls (Commerce Dept.)

- Anti-Tamper Policy (Defense Dept.)

- Foreign Military Sales Program (State Dept.)

- National Disclosure Policy Committee (Defense Dept.)

- Militarily Critical Technologies Program (Defense Dept.)

- National Industrial Security Program (Defense Dept.)

- Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (Treasury Dept.)

The report points out that the critical technologies portfolio is a complex array of programs subject to a myriad of laws, regulations and policies and administered by multiple offices across several departments. Effective coordination across the portfolio is therefore important to mitigate national security risks, and collaboration and information sharing should be optimized not just within each agency but among agencies as well. Further, within individual or closely related programs, ensuring that a consistent approach is taken by the lead and stakeholder agencies in meeting the program goals would help coordinating bodies to ensure that the protection of critical technologies remains up to date and effective.

The GAO concludes that while ongoing improvements to individual programs may help to address some of these coordination issues, interagency collaboration across the portfolio remains an important challenge. As a result, the report recommends that the agencies involved take steps to promote and strengthen collaboration mechanisms among their respective programs while ongoing initiatives are implemented and assessed. For example, agencies could conduct an annual meeting to discuss their programs, including the technologies they are protecting, their programs’ intent and any new developments or changes planned for their programs, as well as defining consistent critical technologies terminology and sharing important updates.

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