While the Department of Defense (DOD) took steps to address previously identified weaknesses in updating and maintaining the Militarily Critical Technologies List (MCTL), the list remains outdated and updates have ceased.
For example, DOD has solicited users’ requirements and feedback on the MCTL, and added a search engine capability to improve navigation of the list and updated each technology section at least once. DOD also determined the list’s purpose is to support export control decisions and in October 2008, issued an instruction that (1) recognized the list’s usefulness for other DOD programs and activities and (2) outlined the roles, responsibilities, and procedures for updating and maintaining the list.
However, in 2011, DOD cut funding for the program from $4 million in prior years to about $1.5 million and ceased MCTL content updates. Subsequently, DOD removed the public version of the list from the Internet, and officials posted a disclaimer for the restricted version noting that the list should only be used for informational purposes as it had not been updated.
Similarly, the compendium of emerging technologies is outdated and two sections have not been updated since 1999. Program officials from the Militarily Critical Technologies Program have devised a plan to improve how MCTL content will be updated in the future, including relying on contributions from the user community, but implementation of the plan has been limited due to funding constraints. However, program officials have yet to get input from users to agree to this approach and would still require additional funding to implement it.
The MCTL is not used to inform export decisions—its original purpose. Export control officials from DOD and the Departments of Commerce and State reiterated their longstanding concern that the MCTL is outdated and too broad to meet export control needs. DOD officials who provide input on the criticality of technologies as part of export license determinations and reviews of foreign acquisition of U.S. companies told us that they do not rely on the MCTL to inform their decision making despite DOD guidance to do so. Instead, they consult their own network of experts, which they consider to be a more reliable source to get current technology information.
Other DOD programs to protect critical technologies need a technical reference such as the MCTL and have integrated the list to help inform decision making. For example, the MCTL has been fully integrated into DOD’s anti-tamper critical technology tool, which is designed to facilitate analysis and decision making to protect the most valuable military assets from tampering when exported or lost in military missions. Also, to inform its analysis of industrial espionage activities such as foreign targeting of U.S. technologies, the Defense Security Service relies on the MCTL to identify overlap and connections between different technology categories.
With the suspension of MCTL updates, these programs are seeking alternatives, and in one case, developing their own technical reference which could result in inefficient use of resources. DOD officials working with MCTL users have an opportunity to coordinate efforts and help minimize inconsistent approaches to identify critical technologies and any potential duplication of effort.
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