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The United States is a net exporter of technology and technical knowledge. Despite fears that this outflow of technology is costly to U.S. taxpayers, it would be impractical to institute a government-wide system for monitoring and restricting overseas technology transfers. First, a review of the economic effects of technology transfer showed that it is not possible to estimate accurately the financial effect on the United States of the international transfer of government-sponsored technology. Moreover, the methods of transfer that might be monitored or restricted are also sources of the valuable, high domestic societal return to government investments in research and development. Finally, government agencies do not see international technology transfer issues as central to their missions and are likely to see new requirements as constraints on their ability to carry out their missions. The authors thus recommend no major policy shifts but do suggest some changes in existing policy that would enhance the U.S. government's ability to trace and to capture the benefits of certain technical innovations.

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