After years of problems and delays, the reform of the U.S. government’s export control process is nearing completion, said Andrew J. Shapiro, the assistant secretary of state for political military affairs.
Shapiro told reporters at the Defense Writers Group today that reform of the process will be good for defense industries, for allies and for U.S. military relations with allies around the world.
President Barack Obama ordered reform of the process in 2009, and U.S. government agencies are working in close consultation to change the way the United States shares technology with allies.
“The reason why this effort is going to be successful is because this time the Pentagon has been one of the leading proponents of export control reform,” Shapiro said.
The reform effort is based on the premise that it doesn’t help national security to try to protect everything. “We really need to protect the things that are most important to us,” Shapiro said. “The goal has been to focus our efforts on the so-called ‘crown jewels.’”
Some examples, he said, are night vision systems, stealth and cloaking technologies, and satellite and communications technologies.
Today, there are two lists, one maintained by the State Department and one by the Commerce department, Shapiro said, and this alone causes confusion for allies, industries and some in government. The department lists, he added, do not use common definitions.
“There is a lot of ambiguity as to what is on the State Department list and on the Commerce list,” the assistant secretary said. “Early on in the process, I was stunned that the agencies even had difficulty agreeing on facts. The engineers at one agency and the engineers at another would be diametrically opposed.”
The long-term goals are to improve enforcement and information technology systems, eventually having a single list and a single licensing agency, Shapiro said.
“We’re close to the point of being able to publish those first categories of the revised export control system and those efforts are on-going,” he said. “While the entire list will not be completed by the end of the year, … it’ll be so close to the goal line that it will be just up to the next administration to spike the football.”
Shapiro said he expects tens of thousands of parts and components that currently have to be licensed by the State Department will move over to Commerce, and this will make the process much easier for all.