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Visa controls for supercomputer access.

The Reagan administration appears determined to keep Soviet-bloc and Chinese researchers away from U.S. supercomputers. "It's fairly clear that there will probably be some kind of restrictions on access to supercomputers," says Charles H. Herz, general counsel for the National Science Foundation (NSF), reporting last week to the DOD-University Forum Working Group on Export Controls.

Department of Defense (DOD) officials argue that "high-end computing" is essential for many military and intelligence applications. Access to supercomputers like the Cray-2 could help the Soviet Union build its own machines and show Soviet researchers how to use them effectively. What's needed are "wise and prudent measures" that one would apply to any expensive piece of equipment, says George Menas of DOD's Strategic Trade Directorate. This can be achieved "without intruding on academic freedom," he says.

The debate focuses on four university supercomputing centers established earlier this year by NSF (SN:7/20/85, p. 36). Recent discussions between NSF and the Department of State, which is responsible for coming up with a supercomputer access policy, indicate that visa restrictions are the favored control emthod. Visas for visitors from proscribed countries would clearly indicate whether the named visitor is allowed access to a supercomputer.

This approach, says Herz, takes the university out of the business of being an enforcer. However, federal officials hope that university personnel will voluntarily and informally cooperate by reporting individuals who violate the terms of their visas. Eventually, similar controls may be instituted for all U.S. supercomputer installations.
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Author:Peterson, Ivars
Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 21, 1985
Words:250
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