The U.S. government is in the process of adjusting restrictions on defense-related export controls that will allow U.S. defense companies to more easily sell weapons overseas while still protecting technology secrets.
The Defense Trade Security Initiative is expected to consolidate multiple levels of bureaucracy and create a single export-control list, a single licensing agency, a single enforcement agency and a single information technology system to manage data.
This approach “would allow us to concentrate on controlling those critical technologies and items — the ‘crown jewels’ if you will — that are the basis for maintaining our military technology advantage,” said Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Last year, U.S. defense companies said they were looking to sell weapons overseas to offset declining domestic sales. They have pushed lawmakers for export-control reform that could help with the domestic industry’s effort to expand international sales. The current export regulations are “overly strict” and have hurt U.S. companies and encouraged other countries to come up with their own versions of any given technology, said Wes Bush, president and chief executive at Northrop Grumman, in the Washington Post.
“We have been so focused on protecting our technological edge that we have actually done severe and unnecessary damage to our defense industrial base,” Bush said.
In a statement, the National Security Council said the effort is focused on controlling fewer parts and components. It also said it’s working to create a license that would cover an entire program, rather than requiring each part to be licensed.
The Pentagon and Obama administration are seeking to draw a clear boundary between specialized military equipment that is difficult to replicate and basic equipment, such as easily produced machine components, said Joel Johnson, executive director for international at the Teal Group, in the Post article. “There is a line, and what they’re trying to do is figure out where that line is,” he said.