The US Department of Defense's (DoD) move to consider banning foreign IT workers from taking part in sensitive IT projects appears to be gaining pace.
Although details of the plan remain secret, DoD officials have already conceded that work to determine the effects of such an action is underway.
News of the policy, which rides on the back of 11 September terrorist fears, would restrict much of the IT work at the DoD to US citizens only. It has already drawn criticism from the US IT industry.
In an open letter to Harry Miller, the DoD's Under Secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, the president of the Information Technology Association of America, a trade association representing over 500 companies, called for a full and public review of a policy he describes as "xenophobic".
According to Miller, the action is more likely to hinder US security both by refusing to allow some of the best IT professionals to work on DoD projects and by driving up the cost of such work.
"America's defence readiness depends on having ready access to the best available technology and technical skill sets. Precipitous action here could make it much more difficult and expensive for the military services to acquire the requisite IT services," he wrote.
The DoD's potential change to IT hiring comes at a time when the US government is under increasing pressure to review its policies on admitting IT workers from overseas.
While there has long been concern that there is a shortage of skilled IT workers in the US, leading to a record number of visas for overseas IT workers allocated last year, more recently there have been complaints that foreign workers are only hired as lower-cost replacements for US employees.
In his letter, Miller also dismissed the assumption that foreign IT professionals are any more likely to breach US security.
"Non-citizens have repeatedly played a critical role in developing and refining US military technologies. During the 1990s, citizens perpetrated several of the most damaging intelligence leaks in US history," he wrote.
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