For at least the past six years, I have heard, albeit at different levels and tones, complaints and concerns about the state of American export controls. I have been told consistently that the current regime, while serving an important national security function in a time of war, also is hampering American competitiveness. The current regime is slow, unpredictable and lacks the ability to aid American business when it is proper to do so.

Thus, American manufacturers are being cut out of overseas systems procurements, not because American hardware is obsolete, but because of the failure of appropriate attention by those responsible for granting such export appraisals. In fact most would agree that American hardware is the best. The export control process is what is making overseas procurement of American hardware difficult. What is needed is a clear-cut, well-understood and responsive export control policy that makes it possible for American companies — who are in fierce global competition — to give realistic processing timetables to their customers.

Numerous American high-tech companies have expressed how they have found the export licensing process extraordinarily slow, complex and inefficient. Instead of being able to promote a product and provide a customer a specific time frame to expect a product, the process is hampered by a bureaucratic process that is often not fully explained and often seems arbitrary.

That is why I introduced language in the 2006 Science, State, Justice and Commerce Appropriations bill, which will create a more timely approach to export processing.

Export Control Process — American industry is being hampered in the international marketplace by the lack of a clear-cut, well-understood and responsive export control policy. Therefore, the Committee directs the State Department, in consultation with the Commerce Department, to provide a plan within 90 days of enactment of this Act to help effectuate a more timely and accurate export licensing process.

In order for the United States to continue as an industry leader in the international marketplace, we must intelligently reform the export control process and avoid unnecessary and lengthy processing delays. For our businesses to provide fair and timely services to customers and lead in the global marketplace, we need the State Department to work with the Commerce Department to have a sensible export license process that will happen in a fair and timely manner.

I know this will not be a panacea; however, I hope it is a good first step. I want the major stakeholders on this issue to come forward and work with each other. This includes the Congress, the Commerce and State departments, and of course American industry. I want the end result be a process that will enable American business to effectively compete and regain market share lost in the past several years.

Rep. Dave Weldon, a physician, represents Florida’s 15th Congressional District and is a member of the Appropriations Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.