SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics, Submits Its Comments on the US Government’s ANPRM on How to Control Emerging Technology

The SPIE comment addresses methods and criteria for tracking and control of emerging technology, and raises concerns regarding controlling technology too early in development.

10 January 2019

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA and CARDIFF, UK - SPIE CEO Kent Rochford has submitted comments on behalf of SPIE, responding to the U.S. Department of Commerce's 19 November, 2018, advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM), "Review of Controls for Certain Emerging Technologies." Due to requests from many organizations and companies, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) extended the original comment deadline from 19 December to 10 January.

The ANPRM is a result of legislation passed by Congress on 13 August in response to concerns that some technologies, still considered emerging, have not been evaluated for their national security risk, and are therefore not currently controlled through regulation. Many of the technologies listed in the ANPRM are critical to the optics and photonics community and any changes to their classification for export control could have a broad impact, so it is vital that the industry contribute to shaping these decisions.

As Rochford notes, SPIE represents stakeholders in multiple areas covered in the ANPRM, including biotechnology, AI and machine learning technology, Position, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) technology, Systems-on-Chip (SoC) technology, quantum information and sensing technology, robotics, and advanced surveillance technologies. "Should specific proposed rules move forward covering one of these areas," says Rochford, "SPIE stands ready to engage the relevant stakeholders to ensure that controls are reasonable and balanced".

SPIE's comments emphasize that controls should not be established too broadly or too early in the development of emerging technology: when technology has reached a maturity level where evaluation for controls is justified, any controls should be narrowly applied to those technologies with military applications or national security concerns by specifying specific performance parameters relevant to these interests. Premature or far-reaching controls may undermine the development of commercial applications that could drive substantial economic growth, and decisions must balance national security with economic security.

Also reflected in the SPIE comments is the fact that research teams currently in the U.S. working in the specified areas in the ANPRM are highly international, and strong consideration should be made regarding the impact deemed export controls - controls which cover transfer of technology to non-U.S. citizens, even if they are residing in the U.S - will have on the research community. Finally, foreign availability is also an important factor when considering controls, as well as whether established controls will be accepted by other Wassenaar-member countries. The purpose of export controls is to prevent proliferation of a given technology: if this cannot be accomplished, controls should not be applied.

This is the beginning of an ongoing process that will likely result in a series of proposed regulations regarding the individual technologies listed in the ANPRM. On behalf of the optics and photonics community, SPIE will continue to track and contribute to regulatory decisions in this effort to control emerging and foundational technologies.

The full SPIE comment can be read here.

About SPIE

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, an educational not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based science, engineering, and technology. The Society serves 257,000 constituents from 173 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library. In 2018, SPIE provided more than $4 million in community support including scholarships and awards, outreach and advocacy programs, travel grants, public policy, and educational resources. www.spie.org.

Daneet Steffens
Public Relations Manager
+1 360 685 5478