Pentagon efforts to keep United States high technology out of the Soviet Union are undermining American competitiveness in overseas high-tech markets, according to a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) study. The study, released Wednesday, estimates that US technology firms lost $9.3 billion in 1985 sales and that the US economy lost 188,000 jobs as a result of strict controls on US exports supported by Defense Department officials to prevent the diversion of sensitive technology into Soviet weapons systems.
Assistant Defense Secretary Richard Perle, whose office oversees export controls, has denounced the report and its authors. Mr. Perle suggests that the drafters were motivated more by concern for American business interests and profits than out of a concern for US national security.
Members of the NAS panel defend the study. They say that while some US export controls are effective and desirable, the current ``overzealous'' application of controls on a broad range of US high-tech products threatens to undermine America's preeminence as a producer of advanced-technology goods.
The report represents the latest salvo in a debate over how to strike a balance between restricting the flow of high technology to the Soviets and promoting a competitive private US high-technology industry.
Panel members included executives with high-tech firms, as well as several respected former members of the intelligence and defense community, including former Defense Secretary Melvin R. Laird and former Central Intelligence Agency deputy director Bobby R. Inman.
The panel was chaired by Lew Allen, a former US Air Force Chief of Staff and former director of the National Security Agency.
Panel members complained during a news conference that US companies were subjected to more rigorous licensing procedures than their competitors overseas. They said that foreign customers are switching away from American high-tech products because of repeated delays and uncertainties as a result of US export controls.
``We are gradually losing our competitive position,'' says panel member Herbert M. Dwight, chairman of the California-based laser firm Spectra-Physics Inc.
The panel said that the US in concert with its NATO allies, Japan, and other emerging industrialized countries should strive to organize an international ``community of common controls'' on highly sensitive technologies.
The report also calls for the development of a simplified and more focused list of militarily critical technologies that could give the Soviets a major boost in weapons development.