Nobody is going to accuse Robert W. Galvin or William C. Norris of beating around the bush in talking about their Japanese competitors.
Galvin, chairman of Motorola Inc., says he thinks the Japanese are conducting a sustained campaign to reduce the United States to a position of dependence in the electronics industry.
Norris, chairman of Control Data Corp., says he thinks the way to deal with this Japanese threat is to throw them out of the American research laboratories where they acquire so much of their knowledge.
"The first thing the government ought to do is shut 'em off, exclude 'em from the research labs," Norris said.
These leading figures in the high-technology establishment, who were in Washington for a conference on high-technology industries and public policy sponsored by Government Research Corp., showed no inclination to be conciliatory about what they regard as unfair competitive tactics by their Japanese counterparts.
The specter of Japan hung over the entire two-day conference, which attempted to assess the state of U.S. high-technology industries, related trade and investment issues, problems of research and technology transfer and federal government policy.
D. Bruce Merrifield, assistant Commerce secretary for productivity, technology and innovation, warned that the Japanese are preparing to use the same tactics to seize markets in personal computers, advanced memory chips, robotics, biogenetics, satellite communications and other emerging industries as they did in automobiles, steel, shipbuilding and stereo equipment.
But not all the participants took such a hard line as Galvin and Norris. David Packard, chairman of the Hewlett-Packard Corp., for example, said he would "urge our trading partners" to remove nontariff barriers to imports of American products.
In Galvin's view, that approach should be scrapped because it has allowed the Japanese to gain the impression that this country is not serious about enforcing trade agreements or forcing Japan to trade on an equitable basis.
The Japanese, he said, do not believe the United States is going to confront their "extreme protectionism." As a result, he said, they are making a "targeting effort to make dependent the American high-technology industries." Japan, he said, is embarked on a "centralized, collective effort to place us in a dependent mode."
Norris, the crusty, individualistic, 71-year-old founder of Control Data, said at a luncheon with Washington Post editors and reporters that the time has come for strong action against Japanese computer and electronics companies, which he said are acquiring knowledge and technical data in the United States while closing their domestic markets to American products.
The Japanese, he said, "have people running all over the labs at MIT." He said the United States should "exclude them from MIT and Stanford and so forth. That would get their attention. That's the area that would hurt them the most on an ongoing basis."
He acknowledged that any such step would invite Japanese retaliation, but he said "if we shut them off from research, they would lose more than we would . . . you have the choice of sitting here and letting them keep screwing you or doing something about it. I agree with Bob Galvin; it's time to act. In fact, it's 10 years too late."
Norris is practicing what he preaches in his latest innovative venture, Microelectronics & Computer Technology Corp. This company, fostered by Norris, is a research and development cooperative funded by 10 major computer and electronics corporations, which will contribute personnel and money and have equal access to the results.
Control Data and Motorola are among the 10 founding partners of the company, which is known as MCC. Its president and chief executive officer, appointed last month, is retired admiral Bobby R. Inman, former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Norris said that when MCC was being established, "no Japanese company asked to participate, and we were able to set it up on the basis that we'd only invite in companies who are either headquartered in the United States or a branch like North American Phillips."
MCC will hold title to whatever advances it makes in such fields as computer architecture and computer-aided industrial design, Norris told the conference. "Although participating companies will have initial rights to the technology and receive preferential treatment, technology will be licensed to other companies on reasonable terms," he said.
He did not say what "reasonable terms" would be for Japanese companies, but he noted that "there are not very many American companies that want to sell any technology to Japan. They've learned by bitter experience."
Japanese scientists, he said, will be excluded from MCC research labs "unless there's some agreement between MCC and the Japanese government."
In the long run, he said, cooperation between American and Japanese researchers would benefit both countries, provided the exchanges were made on an "equitable" basis, and, to achieve that, "I don't really think you'd have to go too far. You have to be serious, you can't bluff, but once you shut them out of one or two projects, you'd start to see some of these issues resolved."