White House Announced Export Control Review

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WASHINGTON — U.S. President Barack Obama has directed his economic and national security advisers to launch a broad-based interagency review of U.S. export controls governing military and dual-use technology transfers, which include restrictions on the export of U.S. commercial communications satellites.

According to an Aug. 13 statement issued by the White House press secretary, the review will consider reforms to the current export control regime aimed at enhancing the national security, foreign policy and economic security interests of the United States.

“The U.S. has one of the most robust export control systems in the world. 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,” the statement says.

The announcement is the first official indication the White House will advance export-control reform, a polarizing topic that pits national security hawks against the American aerospace industry, whose global market share has diminished since a 1999 crackdown on U.S. commercial communications satellite exports.

Congress made commercial satellites subject to International Traffic in Arms Regulations in the late 1990s following allegations that China was benefiting militarily from launches of U.S.-built spacecraft. Before that legislation was passed as part of the Strom Thurmond National Defense Authorization Act of 1999, the Commerce Department had export licensing authority over all but the most sophisticated commercial communications satellites.

In July, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced his department would review the entire export control system. During July 22 remarks at a Washington International Trade Association event here, Locke said the U.S. export-control system must adapt to the United States’ changing security needs without inhibiting the competitiveness of U.S. companies and institutions.

“I have instructed Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security to initiate a review of the entire export control system,” Locke said in his remarks. “The review will focus on improving the system by targeting our controls at those state and non-state actors who would seek to do us harm, while ensuring that the traditional control lists keep pace with technological developments.”

The Aerospace Industries Association, an Arlington, Va.-based trade association, applauded the White House announcement.

“While licensing processing time have improved over the last year and a half, there is much more than can and should be done to modernize the system,” AIA President and Chief Executive Marion Blakey said in a statement.