I Picked the Wrong Decade to Give up Aerospace

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Congress and the Commerce Dept.'s Bureau of Industry and Security are looking to tighten the rules governing foreign nationals' access to "deemed exports," which is government-ese for technological data deemed sensitive enough to National Security to require some export restriction. According to the information-should-be-freer Secrecy News,

Strict enforcement of controls on such information would require imposing severe, possibly unworkable limits on interactions with foreign scientists and with foreign students in the U.S.

"Depending on how you parse the requirements," one distinguished academic scientist said yesterday, "their impact would range from serious to disastrous."

If controls on access to laboratory equipment are enforced by surveillance and monitoring systems, another eminent scientist said, "then the notion of an open university disappears at that point."

More links, including the guvmint's side of the story, here. I can report that, at least according to my aerospace-engineer father, the post-Sept. 11 tightening of rules has made the Security Clearance process for furriners drag out into several years, putting a kibosh on the hiring of clever Indians, Russkies, Chinese, and the like. Which, when mixed with the a shortage of young talent (who prefer Internet stuff) and a spike in demand from the government, has created a rip-roaring labor market for aging aerospace types with good Clearances. A year or so ago, a freelancer ("job-shopper") friend of my dad's gushed, "It's like Reagan all over again!"

NEXT: We're Number 24!

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  1. Does anybody think it’s a good thing, from a long-term national security perspective, if talented scientists and engineers from Asia and the Middle East have a hard time finding work here?

    Better here than there, if you ask me.

    Just make sure that Arnold Vosloo isn’t hired at a defense contractor. (24 reference)

  2. Yeah, thoreau.

    Arnold Vosloo might start summoning Ancient Egyptian bodyguards and huge dust storms to take out Bauer and CTU. (The Mummy reference)

  3. Well, if a defense contractor does make a mistake and hire Arnold Vosloo, they can always divert suspicion away from themselves by detonating an EMP weapon in downtown LA and trying to kill a federal agent.

    And yes, that was actually a plotline on 24: “Oh my God, we hired a terrorist. Geez, that might get us some bad PR. How can we cover this up? Hmmm… Hey, I know, let’s launch a terrorist attack!”

    Season 4 sucks.

  4. Ambiguous phrases like “one distinguished academic scientist” and “another eminent scientist” make me inherently uneasy. I completely understand a scientist not wanting their name used and a “journalist” (quotes necessary as I know nothing of the writer or site) protecting their sources, but truthfully quotes of this type aren’t usually worth the pixels their viewed upon.

    As far as the actual “tightening of rules” is concerned, I just can’t summon the mental strength to wade through a bunch of overwritten double-speak right now.

  5. Thoreau,
    The hiring of the terrorist wasn’t their biggest concern, it was that they had illegally sold weapons systems to foreign countries (I think potentially hostile countries), so the hiring of the terrorist was actually just a bad coincidence that could have exposed their illegal weapons dealing. I think this season has been an improvement on the last two, with the third being the worst of them all.

  6. I would just note that this is merely the “first wave” of the problem. There are plenty of defense facilities in the US that require scientists to possess American citizenship. But many such scientists are foreign-born, naturalized citizens whose first exposure to the States comes via college and graduate school. That pipeline is slowly being shut off by these policies as well — much of the management at these agencies can see this coming, of course, but they haven’t really been able to do much about it…
    Reminds me of when a different panic, Y2K, managed to employ hordes of old CoBOL programmers…

    Anon

  7. “quotes of this type aren’t usually worth the pixels their viewed upon.”

    This article has statistics on the decline:

    http://www.post-gazette.com/localnews/20031103foreignstudents1103p1.asp

    As I recall, The Economist also had an article earlier this year that had specific figures for student visas in 2004 that showed a number of Asian countries are either now sending (or soon will if the trend of the last three years continues) more students to China than the United States.

  8. The National Academy of Sciences is hosting a webcast on this issue Friday morning. Details on my blog.

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