— A new bill, sponsored by Reps. Donald Manzullo (R-Ill.) and Brad Sherman (D- Calif.), may offer some hope for improving the arms export regime, industry officials say.

The bill, HR 4246, was first introduced Nov. 11 by the same two congressmen.
is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs terrorism, nonproliferation and trade subcommittee, which would initially decide the fate of any bill dealing with arms exports.

Then it would be dealt with by the full committee and go on for a vote by the entire House. Manzullo has long followed export control issues since he represents many aerospace, and tool and die companies affected by them. Manzullo is part of a group of lawmakers, the Congressional Export Control Working Group, who have been working – very quietly – over the last year to put together legislation and other measures to help improve the transparency, speed and effectiveness of the arms export licensing process. Manzullo created the group with two colleagues, Reps. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.)

The bill, “will reduce defense trade license processing times, create a spare part waiver for our closest allies, and make defense trade licensing more transparent and predictable. These non-controversial, good government changes will make
munitions manufacturers in every category, including space, more competitive in the international marketplace,” Manzullo said March 11 during a session on Capitol Hill conducted by the Aerospace States Association.

The bill currently is being changed to address concerns raised by the State Department, according to a congressional aide, and should be ready for consideration after the Easter Recess, which ends March 30. Among the issues that need addressing are a proposed waiver authority and its limits on how many license applications can be outstanding at any one time, according to Bill Kovac, managing director of the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls, the part of the State Department that actually processes arms export licenses.

The waiver would include so-called NATO-plus three countries, including
New Zealand
. The waiver would exempt from export licensing all defense parts and related services previously licensed. The parts could not be re-exported or given to another country and could not be sold to parts distributors, according to the current version of the bill.

said in testimony before the Aerospace States Association that the State Department has been “working very closely with [Rep.] Manzullo’s staff” on HR 4246. He said that if the “knots” in the bill can be worked out, the State Department would raise no objections to the bill. A congressional aide said the bill’s sponsors hoped to put together a bill that would quietly slip through Congress on suspension, a process that does not require lawmakers to actually vote on a bill.

During his testimony, Kovac criticized Congress for its part in the licensing process, blaming it for extensive delays that occur when lawmakers refuse to begin considering licenses that have been approved by the department but are legally required to go through congressional notification and vetting before they can be approved.

He pointed to three satellite license applications that have spent four months in limbo waiting for Congress to begin considering them. Until Congress reviews the licensing cases they cannot be cleared for final approval. On top of that, he noted that State does periodic reviews of the U.S. Munitions List, which includes thousands of items from commercial satellites to electronics used for missile re-entry vehicles. Items on the list require a State Department license before they can be exported. Paring down the list has been a goal of the aerospace industry for much of the last decade.

But Kovac said nine items State has recommended for removal had been stalled for 1,013 days because Congress has not acted on the recommendations. Finally, Kovac said the overlapping jurisdiction of congressional committees on arms export issues poses problems for his department. “In many ways we are the children of our committees,” he said.

And Manzullo admitted that Congress has its own internal problems. Part of the problem that has faced those lawmakers who wish to change the arms export licensing system, is that few of his colleagues know much about the issue, he said. “The problem is, a member of Congress has to understand what he is dealing with,” Manzullo said.

For example, Manzullo told the Aerospace States Association that he voted in 1998 against the amendment to move licensing jurisdiction for commercial satellites from the Commerce Department to the State Department. “Only 53 other members understood this issue enough to join me – including nine Republicans – but we were unable to prevail during the hysteria over the lack of enforcement of existing export control laws. In 2000, I was proud to be an original cosponsor of legislation to return the jurisdiction of licensing decisions back to the Commerce Department. But unfortunately, this is still a grave problem,” he said.

After its meeting, the Aerospace States Association passed a resolution supporting HR 4246 and condemning the current arms export regime.

export control policies were established in response to the Cold War and created as a means to keep critical
weapons and military technology from getting into the hands of our enemies. While the Aerospace States Association highly regards and supports the U.S. government’s efforts to keep its citizens safe and free from threats, including the threat of terrorist activity, the country’s export control policies have not been updated to keep pace with the economic and political realities of the 21st century,” said Vermont Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, the association’s chairman.