In the same year that public furor derailed a Dubai-owned company's plans to buy and run operations at major American ports, the number of foreign business deals reviewed by the Bush administration for U.S. security risks surged to nearly 100, up from 65 reviews last year.
A few anxious companies in deals pending with foreigners have sought the Bush administration's approval even for sales that do not raise obvious security questions, said lawyers and federal officials involved in these cases.
They attributed the jump largely to a busy year for international mergers and broader awareness of such reviews after the political uproar that scuttled the Dubai ports deal.
"The numbers are up. A company will file even though they don't think it's a national security concern," said Clay Lowery, an assistant secretary at the Treasury Department.
Most of the reviews this year, however, raised legitimate concerns, said Christopher Padilla, an assistant secretary at the Commerce Department. "Of the increases we've seen, only one or two cases didn't have national security issues that needed to be raised," he said. "These transactions are getting the scrutiny that's called for."
Foreign companies announced plans to buy 909 U.S. businesses this year for a value of $198 billion, a slight drop in sales from 2005 but up significantly from 2003 and 2004, according to Dealogic Holdings, a British company that tracks global mergers.
"There are definitely more filings by clients who feel the political environment is so uncertain that they are uncomfortable not filing," said John B. Reynolds, a Washington lawyer who regularly negotiates business deals with the U.S. panel.
Congress ended its work for the year without making promised changes to how the government reviews deals.