NEWS

Increase in Illegal Weapons Exports

By Matthew Harwood

The U.S. government is reporting an alarming increase in illegal U.S. weapons exports to U.S. strategic competitors such as China and Iran, reports the Associated Press.

Last week, two men were charged with trying to export F-4 and F-14 fighter jet parts to Canada. The fear was the parts would end up in Iran, the only nation that still flies the U.S. F-14.

This is just one instance of an alarming trend, says the government, of international exports of sensitive U.S. equipment and material.

A 2006 Pentagon report noted a 43 percent increase in what it described as suspicious foreign contacts with U.S-based defense companies. Similarly, another report by U.S. intelligence officials found that a record 108 nations last year were trying to buy or otherwise obtain U.S. technology that is restricted for sale.

The 2006 Pentagon report by the Defense Security Service also stated the number of countries identified as "associated with suspicious collection activities" in 2005 jumped up to 106 from 90 the year prior. In 1997, only 37 countries were identified as involved in suspicious collection activities.

The most sought after U.S. defense-related technologies, according to the report, were information systems, lasers and optics, and aeronautics.

The report concludes that the trend of suspicious foreign contacts will only worsen over time.

DSS foresees a continuing trend of increased suspicious contact reports from cleared defense contractors. The globalization of defense business will increase the threat from strategic competitors who will use legitimate business activities as a venue to illegally transfer U.S. technology. The number of countries identified in reports, on a steady increase over the past five years, likely will level off. However, the use of third countries to disguise targeting by major foreign governments/competitors will ensure that the number of countries in [Suspicious Contact Reports] remains high.

Another trend the report anticipates an increase in is Internet intrusion because it is a low-risk way to gain access to invaluable information on the U.S. defense industry and its technologies.

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