Exporters can trust BIS data security

I am writing in response to Donald Weadon's Oct. 23 column, "How secure is BIS?" The issue of IT security at the Bureau of Industry and Security that Mr. Weadon raises is important and merits serious discussion. Unfortunately, however, Mr. Weadon's column commenting on BIS's IT situation contains numerous inaccuracies that could leave your readers misinformed.

The fact is that BIS management and staff are working, actively and successfully, to ensure that BIS's IT systems support BIS's important work in administering and enforcing the dual-use export control system. Contrary to Mr. Weadon's assertion, there has been no slowdown in the consideration of export license applications, by BIS or within the interagency process, as a result of any IT issues. Indeed, BIS continues to improve its service to exporters. At its Oct. 15-17 Update Conference in Washington, for example, BIS unveiled a new Web-based interface for exporter license applications, known as SNAP-R. SNAP-R marks an important step forward for exporters and licensing officers, and feedback has been positive.

The press has carried reports of targeted cyber attacks against BIS systems. Your readers should understand that we ourselves identified the problem, through our own IT security processes, in July 2006. Working with Department of Commerce and U.S. government IT security teams, BIS has taken a series of prompt and effective action steps to protect BIS data. Indeed, there is no evidence that any BIS data - export-license application data, law enforcement data, confidential industry survey data or other data - has been lost or compromised.

BIS takes data security very seriously. All BIS personnel involved in reviewing export licensing data have a national security clearance and are authorized access only on a need-to-know basis. Licensing officials discuss export-licensing information only with the exporter of record or other parties authorized in writing by the exporter.

Confident in the security of their data, exporters can help ensure that BIS is able to maintain its license-processing times by providing complete information for every application. In that way, exporters can help the licensing process work to its maximum efficiency, for the benefit of exporters and U.S. security.

If exporters have any questions, they can contact BIS's Exporter Services Hotline at (202) 482-4811.

The bottom line, for your readers and all U.S. exporters, is that BIS continues to manage its IT resources responsibly to support the BIS mission. All of us in BIS look forward to building on this record of achievement in partnership with the exporting community.

Mark Foulon

Acting undersecretary of commerce for industry and security