Thank you. I am honored to receive the Administration Leadership Award at this Annual Conference of the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA). In truth, it is I -- and all of your guests -- who should be honoring you for your transformation of our society and our economy.
Human knowledge has been growing steadily for three centuries, and during that time individuals (and nations) have sought to share that knowledge with their friends, and stay ahead of their enemies. But the world is a much different place than it was when I was growing up. In just the past half century, our way of looking at -- and coping with -- the world has changed dramatically. There has been a revolution in information and communications technologies -- driven by semiconductor advances -- that has made true globalization not only possible but inevitable.
And, as has happened periodically in the past, we now seem to be engaging in some debate as to whether technological advance is a good thing or a bad thing -- at least from the perspective of my little corner of policy -- export controls and technology transfer.
The truth is that whether it is good or bad is not the point. It is here, and we cannot turn the clock back and "uninvent" things. Instead, we have two responsibilities:
-- to use technology to give people the tools they can use in turn to make their lives better.
-- to find solutions to the new problems technology creates.
And those problems abound. Whether it is privacy, intellectual property protection, the authentication needed for e-commerce, or national security, technological advance seems to raise two new questions for every old one it answers.
Particularly in national security, technology -- your industry's in particular -- has paved the way for transformations in weapons and communications systems that increase accuracy and efficiency and save thousands of American lives in the event of their use.
Yet this is also an area where the old cliche, "a rising tide lifts all boats," makes people nervous. There are, apparently, some boats we don't want to lift (in fact, we'd rather sink them than lift them) when it comes to exports of national security-related technology.
Unfortunately, as you all know so well, there are no clean divisions between semiconductors used in military products and those used in civilian products. In fact, it is that very reality that is transforming military acquisition in the U.S., making civilian industry the technology driver in our economy and making you the foundation on which the Pentagon's health -- and our national security -- rests.
You have borne this burden well, with the result that our military is not only the strongest in the world, but the gap between us and others continues to grow.
The politicians, however, have had more difficulty understanding what this means for our national security -- that our strength is grounded in your good health; and your health and leadership, in turn, depends on exports and your ability to compete globally. Others, ignoring the widespread availability of high tech products, see technology primarily as a threat to our security.
As a result we are engaged in another round of the old debate between those who would excessively restrict technology exports and those who recognize the inevitable limitations of that strategy and focus instead on making sure we stay ahead of our adversaries in terms of new technology development.
Of course, the debate is not usually framed that starkly. We (the Administration) are for controlling high tech exports when there is a real national security reason to do so. "They" admit there is no point in protecting commonly available technologies and products. All of us say we should focus on those things that are truly critical, but few of us -- and none of our critics -- provide a list of what those things might be. All of us oppose espionage.
As a result, the debate will go on at the margin, but it will largely center on information technologies that are driven by semiconductor advances because they are the most ubiquitous. Ironically, information technology is also one of our best tools for advancing the cause of freedom and human rights because it opens repressed societies to new thinking and new ideas.
My response is to remind everyone that this is the wrong debate because these technologies are here, they're commonly available, and they're not going to go away. The "winner" of the debate, if you will, is pre-ordained. Sooner or later political reality will catch up with economic and technological reality. The technology Maginot Line will hold no better than its military predecessor.
The real issue is how much it is going to cost you -- and over the long term, us and our position of world leadership -- if we simply wait for that to happen.
You can cut that cost and reduce that time through education -- help us to see that technology is an opportunity not a threat, and show us how to turn that opportunity into new tools and better lives for our people -- and all the peoples of the world.
If we do that, our country will be stronger, our people will be stronger, and the world will be a safer, freer, and more prosperous place.
In April of 2002 the Bureau of Export Administration (BXA) changed its name to the Bureau of Industry and Security(BIS). For historical purposes we have not changed the references to BXA in the legacy documents found in the Archived Press and Public Information.