USA — Official Explains Need for Export-control Reform

WASHINGTON — Eco­nom­ic con­trols have a direct rela­tion­ship to nation­al secu­ri­ty, and Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates says it’s time some of those con­trols got a makeover.
In a speech yes­ter­day to the Busi­ness Exec­u­tives for Nation­al Secu­ri­ty, Gates pro­posed revamp­ing the nation’s Cold War-era export-con­trol sys­tem to make it more dif­fi­cult for crit­i­cal tech­nolo­gies to get into the hands of rogue states and ter­ror­ists while facil­i­tat­ing the trans­fer of tech­nol­o­gy to U.S. allies.

James A. Hursch, direc­tor of the Defense Tech­nol­o­gy Secu­ri­ty Admin­is­tra­tion, spoke lat­er in the day about the Defense Department’s posi­tion on export con­trols – the reg­u­la­tions that deter­mine what is and isn’t allowed to be sold abroad by U.S.-based enti­ties – in a “DoD Live” blog­gers round­table.

The export con­trols in place now were writ­ten more than 50 years ago, he explained, in a fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment.

“It was a sys­tem designed for the Cold War, bipo­lar world, and is not suf­fi­cient­ly focused on the most crit­i­cal threats we face today,” Hursch said.

And because of inno­va­tions in tech­nol­o­gy and the ever-more-glob­al econ­o­my, prod­ucts on the cut­ting edge aren’t always Amer­i­can any more, he not­ed. Often, he explained, the U.S. mil­i­tary uses off-the-shelf com­mer­cial sys­tems, because the defense indus­try can’t keep up with the glob­al con­sumer mar­ket.

“There’s a need for a fun­da­men­tal change to the sys­tem we have in place today,” Hursch said. “We have a sec­re­tary of defense who real­izes the over­whelm­ing­ly pos­i­tive impli­ca­tions of the export con­trol reforms that he advo­cates, and [under­stands] that he is doing them for nation­al secu­ri­ty rea­sons.”

Hursch enu­mer­at­ed four essen­tial pieces of the reform effort he called “sin­gles.” The first is a sin­gle export con­trol list that clar­i­fies which exports require a license and which do not, as well as the steps to obtain a license to export a prod­uct.

“This would be an aggre­ga­tion of the cur­rent Unit­ed States Muni­tions List and the cur­rent Crit­i­cal Items Con­trol List that the Com­merce Depart­ment admin­is­ters,” he said. “This would be tiered accord­ing to the sen­si­tiv­i­ty or crit­i­cal­i­ty of an item or the tech­nol­o­gy asso­ci­at­ed with it.”

The sec­ond is a con­sol­i­dat­ed licens­ing agency that will help to stream­line the review and export process­es and make con­sis­tent deci­sions made regard­ing licens­es. Cur­rent­ly, the depart­ments of State and Com­merce both have licens­ing bod­ies, and they often con­flict, Hursch said.

“We spend a lot of time fight­ing over which of these two author­i­ties should actu­al­ly con­trol the export of cer­tain items, rather than fight­ing over how crit­i­cal or sen­si­tive the item actu­al­ly is, and there­fore whether it should be con­trolled or not,” he said.

The third part of the pro­posed reform is a lone agency that would coor­di­nate enforce­ment efforts and help to mon­i­tor, inves­ti­gate and pros­e­cute vio­la­tors of export con­trol laws. Many law enforce­ment orga­ni­za­tions now assist in this task, from the FBI to the U.S. Coast Guard and bor­der patrols. This new agency would not replace them, Hursch said, but would ensure those agen­cies don’t dupli­cate each oth­ers’ efforts.

The fourth aspect of the pro­posed reform is a uni­fied infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy sys­tem to main­tain license infor­ma­tion and oth­er data per­ti­nent to export con­trol and review license data effi­cient­ly across the gov­ern­ment. The Com­merce, Defense and State depart­ments each have their own net­work in place now; Hursch said the Defense Department’s sys­tem is the newest and like­ly will form the back­bone of the new inter­de­part­men­tal sys­tem.

Mak­ing the pro­posed reforms a real­i­ty won’t be a sim­ple task, Hursch acknowl­edged.

“We real­ize that fun­da­men­tal reform requires exten­sive coor­di­na­tion and con­sul­ta­tion with Con­gress and oth­er inter­est­ed groups,” he said. “Achiev­ing reform will not be quick or easy.”

As the reform is devel­oped and a pack­age is put togeth­er to sub­mit to Con­gress – Hursch esti­mat­ed that would hap­pen by the end of the year – Gates and his col­leagues at the State Com­merce depart­ments will begin mak­ing pol­i­cy changes with­in their exec­u­tive-deci­sion purview.

The cre­ation of tiered restric­tions, defin­ing which cur­rent­ly con­trolled items need to be placed among those tiers, deter­min­ing enforce­ment tech­niques and ensur­ing penal­ties for vio­la­tors are appro­pri­ate are on the “to do” list, Hursch said. Though many of the reforms will be made along the way through exec­u­tive orders, he said, the four “sin­gles” will require con­gres­sion­al approval, Hursch said.

The end sys­tem would cre­ate “high­er walls around few­er items,” Hursch explained. Weapon­ry — specif­i­cal­ly items that could be used to build weapons of mass destruc­tion — will be very tight­ly con­trolled, as would items or infor­ma­tion such as schemat­ics or blue­prints that could hurt domes­tic eco­nom­ic inter­ests if export­ed.

Con­trol won’t nec­es­sar­i­ly be more lax over cer­tain items, Hursch said, but the tiered sys­tem will aid in pri­or­i­tiz­ing enforce­ment and in help­ing agen­cies dif­fer­en­ti­ate between, for exam­ple, export of a con­trolled food item and a con­trolled chem­i­cal with poten­tial­ly harm­ful uses, Hursch said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)