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Export Control Reform, Proliferation Concerns Raised

In today’s Washington Times, Bill Gertz penned an interesting item missing from the public debate on reforms to the export control system being implemented by the Obama Administration:

According to congressional aides, the administration has prevented U.S. intelligence agencies from conducting comprehensive assessments of the security impact of the export decontrol plan.

Prevented? In the policy-making world that is a fighting word and something that needs to be addressed.

The export control reform process started during the Bush Administration. I think they could not get anything off the ground because, rightly so, it had more pressing things to do such as prepare the country for the long game in the war against radical Islamist terror. To their credit, the Obama team picked up and continued the process. And it has done a good job keeping the dialogue going and has already implemented needed changes.

While I know that the folks working on this issue care deeply about security issues, the proliferation component of this discussion has received short shrift in the public arena. The emphasis in public speeches seems to be that reform is needed to increase exports, while the proliferation concerns are secondary. Reasonable minds may disagree on whether comprehensive reform of the trade security system is needed. That said, some updating of the current regulations is long overdue.

For example,  in addition to creating a single control list, consider making structural changes in the bureaucracy rather than than creating new agencies. At State Department, you could eliminate the Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security and create a Deputy Security for Trade Security, Intelligence, and Terrorism (consolidating several bureaus in the new office, i.e., DDTC, INR, CT, ISN, etc.). The fusion center? Rather than place it at DHS, move it to the National Security Council.

Under our laws, non-proliferation and trade promotion are equally important policy considerations. It would be good to hear more about how our leading U.S. military and commercial technology and know-how is being secured for the 21st century. A lot can be done under existing laws and regulations to make it so. With regards to the Gertz piece and the single list, consulting the intelligence community experts, is a must, before any permanent changes are made.

Read Gertz’s piece, “Export changes raise proliferation worries,” here.

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