About two months after President Obama called for a broad-based review of the U.S. export control system, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke on Oct. 1 proposed reforms that he says will make the United States more competitive globally.
"Our current system was designed in the 1950s, and its Cold War-era framework is ill-suited to manage the highly complex 21st century threats currently faced by the United States," Locke said on Oct. 1. "We need to fundamentally revise our export controls system to account for the emergence of new foreign markets, competitors and multifaceted threats that have arisen over the past few decades."
The Commerce Department noted that in 2009 a U.S. company lost two key sales to Italy for predictive maintenance imaging cameras because of the current export control laws. "The Italians didn't want to deal with the time delays in our controls system, so they bought the same technology from the Japanese," the Commerce Department reports.
Locke has proposed that the United States eliminate dual-use export license requirements for allies and partner nations and implement a fast-track procedure for reviewing dual-use export licenses for other key allies.
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) praised the move, saying such actions would allow U.S. companies to compete for lucrative foreign markets while shifting focus to technologies that are considered greater national security threats.
"Over the years the process has gotten very rusty or clogged because the government hasn't taken obsolete technologies off the list," says Frank Vargo, NAM's vice president for international economic affairs.
Aerospace manufacturing is one industry that's been seeking reform for years. "Clearly it's recognition that we need to get export controls right," says Ramy Nathan, assistant vice president for international affairs at the Aerospace Industries Association. "What we're talking about here is a full definition of national security -- not just about getting the technology out of the hands of the bad guys, but getting it into the hands of the good guys. We need a system that maximizes legitimate opportunities."