Some of this country's most sensitive high-technology equipment is flowing unchecked into the Soviet Union because the Commerce Department does not adequately enforce federal licensing laws, a Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee said yesterday. According to an 80-page subcommittee study, Commerce's Office of Export Administration is so "understaffed and poorly equipped" that it is ineffective. The office has only six inspectors, the study said, and has filed only 12 criminal cases in four years. The result has been wholesale exporting of advanced lasers and certain computers, microchips and semiconductors that were not supposed to be exported without a license from Commerce, the study said.
Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), who requested the study, told the Los Angeles Times the Soviets have become so sophisticated at obtaining American technology that they "know precisely what it is they need, right down to the model number of the desired equipment." The study called for abolishing the Commerce office and giving its work to the U.S. Customs Service.
Speaking for Commerce, Bonnie Whyte said, "This administration has been aware of the problem of high-technology exports for some time, and we've been working to upgrade this unit."
At a Senate hearing yesterday, a Soviet engineer who defected in the 1970s said the U.S. government "is following an unwise policy in making public as much military data as it does."