Research universities must protect sensitive defense technologies

Russia’s Ministry of Defense announced recently that it had used Kinzhal hypersonic missiles to destroy a sizable underground cache of Ukrainian missiles and other weapons. With the war in Ukraine continuing, it is feasible to expect the introduction of more of these new kinds of weapons designed using science refined […]

Russia’s Ministry of Defense announced recently that it had used Kinzhal hypersonic missiles to destroy a sizable underground cache of Ukrainian missiles and other weapons. With the war in Ukraine continuing, it is feasible to expect the introduction of more of these new kinds of weapons designed using science refined at America’s universities. Foreign regimes build next-generation weapons based on technology often acquired illicitly from those universities.

The threat of our most critical emerging technology finding its way into weapon systems developed by our adversaries is real, and U.S. higher education institutions must guard against it.

Top federal officials — including a member of the FBI’s elite counterintelligence team and technology protection leaders from the Department of Defense — met at Texas A&M University in March to talk about how to keep the China and other foreign governments from illicitly acquiring sensitive research being conducted at American universities.

In fact, federal partners come every year to the Academic Security & Counter Exploitation Program because protecting vital research, especially the kind that can be used against the U.S., is a priority. We’re glad to share ideas with federal officials and other universities.

Prominent research universities receive billions of research dollars every year from federal entities such as NASA and the Department of Defense to push the limits of science and make America safer. But the federally funded research makes us a target, and some foreign governments seek to build their military programs on American research. For example, we know that China, Iran, North Korea and Russia are trying to gain a global military advantage in hypersonics and nuclear energy areas.

If they go unchecked, China and other countries will undermine our research and development ecosystem, economic strength, and military supremacy.

At the Texas A&M System, I lead a team that works with federal law enforcement officers to seek out areas where protected information might be vulnerable. We conduct regular reviews of agreements between A&M personnel and foreign entities. That practice is one of the reasons Texas A&M has been recognized twice by the Defense and Counterintelligence Security Agency with their Award for Excellence in Counterintelligence.

Higher education research works best when it is open, when we push the limits of science and when we work internationally. It is all about balance and making informed, risk-based decisions.

There is too much at stake if we don’t strike the proper balance. The American higher education system must accept the responsibility for protecting our most sensitive research so that our research enterprise remains the envy of the world.

Kevin Gamache is associate vice chancellor and chief research security officer for The Texas A&M University System and a retired U.S. Air Force colonel. He wrote this for The Dallas Morning News.

https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2022/05/08/research-universities-must-protect-sensitive-defense-technologies/

Dong Anker

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