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Attempts to illegally obtain U.S. technology are on the rise, just as the National Aeronautics and Space Agency is attempting to sell material from the retired Space Shuttle program. But NASA risks releasing sensitive information because it didn’t have proper vetting in place, according to its inspector general.

NASA did not require staff to ensure that the property for sale had been reviewed for export-controlled information or that buyers were not foreigners or had been denied export privileges. Slips have occurred—NASA was preparing to sell a laptop last December which had information subject to security restrictions still on it.

Federal regulations restrict the sale of defense-related material and it is unlawful to sell controlled technologies to foreigners without prior approval from the Departments of State or Commerce.

“NASA’s need to dispose of this large amount of property coincides with increases in attempts by countries like China and Iran to illegally acquire U.S. technology,” the inspector general warned.

The sale of shuttle materials is supposed to finance other projects at NASA, a much-needed source of revenue in the restrained budget environment. But the agency had to forfeit the $185,000 it collected in 2009 to Treasury because it did not obligate funds within the required timeline.

FAST FACT: The retirement of the NASA Space Shuttle program means 1.2 million items will need to be disposed of. Originally, 500,000 pieces were supposed to be transferred to the Constellation Program, which has since been cancelled, flooding the agency with additional items.

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