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Loosening of controls on exports draws fire
Trade groups laud new Obama policies
The Obama administration’s overhaul of regulations aimed at loosening controls on the export of some military technology is drawing fire from groups that monitor arms proliferation but praise from trade groups.
The policy seeks to streamline and standardize the licensing process for defense-related exports and create a new unified enforcement agency to crack down on violators of the export controls.
Currently, the Commerce and State departments administer controls on the licensing of munitions and sensitive dual-use exports, a long-standing source of concern for the U.S. defense industry that complains of delays and the byzantine nature of the bureaucracy. Dual-use items have both military and civilian applications.
“Going forward, we will have a single, tiered, positive list — one which will allow us to build higher walls around the export of our most sensitive items while allowing the export of less-critical ones under less-restrictive conditions,” Mr. Obama said Tuesday,
“The financial industry and the auto industry had their bailouts, now it is the defense industry’s turn,” he said.
Mr. Milhollin said most defense technology being deregulated was developed with public money.
“The lion’s share of the technology we are decontrolling has been developed with taxpayer dollars,” Mr. Milhollin said. “This is taxpayer-owned technology that the companies now want to sell to the whole world.”
Henry Sokolski, the executive director of the Nonproliferation Education Policy Center, said, “the Obama administration is distorting what the primary purpose of the export-control regulations are, which is national security, not creating more jobs. What’s worse, nobody has demonstrated that loosening these controls will create more jobs.”
The reaction from industry representatives was different. Myron Brilliant, a senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for International Affairs, said, “by modernizing America’s antiquated export controls, the White House is seizing an opportunity to enhance U.S. national security and economic competitiveness at the same time.”
The emphasis on jobs was clear in Mr. Obama’s speech. He said, “by enhancing the competitiveness of our manufacturing and technology sectors, they’ll help us not just increase exports and create jobs, but strengthen our national security as well.”
The administration has made the case after a one-year policy review of export controls that the current system fails to adequately protect the most sensitive U.S. technology while over-regulating the export of harmless exports, such as break pads for M1A1 Abrams tanks.
William Lowell, a former director of the State Department’s Office of Defense Trade Controls between 1994 and 2002, said he suspected the streamlined export-control list would deregulate spare parts and components for many U.S. weapons systems.
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