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Overhaul of export controls on table
“But now, the general philosophy is, control everything and let a few things out,” Mr. Scowcroft said. “We need to control the things that need to be controlled” and let other goods be sold.
Mr. Scowcroft, a retired general, worked in the White House for President George H.W. Bush. He is currently head of the Scowcroft Group, which has extensive business dealings in China.
The administration’s plan to adopt some of Mr. Scowcroft’s export-control study was noted by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who said in a speech Oct. 16 that “we look forward to drawing on his ideas emanating from a study that he has just chaired on this important issue.”
The White House also announced in August that ir was reviewing export controls for both dual-use and defense trade.
“The U.S. has one of the most robust export-control systems in the world,” a White House statement said then. “But it is rooted in the Cold War era of over 50 years ago and must be updated to address the threats we face today and the changing economic and technological landscape.”
Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, said he is concerned the new policy will be skewed toward promoting business at the expense of U.S. national security.
“This new policy is a giant push by industry to export technology that was developed by taxpayer dollars for defense purposes,” Mr. Milhollin said. “This also appears to include a push to decontrol manufacturing technology for defense items, which if carried out, will send high-tech defense jobs overseas.”
He added: “If industry gets its way, and we drop controls on dual-use technology, then [other countries] will do the same. It will be impossible to keep dangerous items out of the hands of the Iranians and the Chinese.”
Edward Timperlake, a former Pentagon technology-security specialist, said there is broad agreement that export controls need reform, but warned that the national-security risks are proven by the aggressive efforts foreign spies make to steal or illegally acquire U.S. defense technology. These efforts could be made redundant and U.S. counterintelligence pointless if the goods become freely available.
“The counterintelligence challenge has been to stop military technology from falling into the hands of Chinese intelligence agents,” Mr. Timperlake said. “And now it is possible that the effort could be undermined by a new policy that puts the entire program in doubt.”
The Scowcroft report, “Beyond ‘Fortress America’: National Security Controls on Science and Technology in a Globalized World,” stated that current export controls “now quietly undermine our national security and our national economic well-being.”
“The entire system of export controls needs to be restructured, and the visa controls on credentialed foreign scientists and engineers should be further streamlined to serve the nation’s current economic and security challenges,” the report said.
The report said the export-control system is “fundamentally broken” and will not be fixed with piecemeal changes without direction from the president.
According to the report, for some 20 years, the administration and Congress could not agree on how to control dual-use exports, the report said. The failure has “led to unnecessary vulnerabilities in our national security and in our economic competitiveness.”
The report also said the current “list-based systems” of protecting sensitive exports is difficult to administer and too restrictive because of “global developments in science and technology.”
About the Author
Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
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