The Obama Administration has tackled reform of our national export control system with much gusto. Our trade security system includes a series of laws and regulations that, among other things, controls what sensitive technology and services can be sold or shared with foreigners. Also included under this system are economic sanctions, customs rules, and others. That is why I use the term “trade security” rather than “export controls” — there is a lot more than “exports” that we need to keep an eye on.
During Obama’s first term, and currently, various federal agency officials have tried to update these laws and regulations. You can read all about it here. They’ve done a pretty god job reviewing decades of laws and regulations. Despite the complexity of implementing and enforcing this legal regime, the current regulatory scheme largely accomplishes what it is supposed to do. It could be better; however, that is the nature of policymaking and it is a continual process no matter the subject matter.
Do we need this comprehensive reform? Some in the business say yes. There are advocates for incremental reform and others who just want it left alone. While our trade security system could use improvement, it remains the global gold standard. The United States leads the world in this field. As it should. It’s national and commercial security were talking about.
U.S. companies get in a lot of trouble, and pay hefty fines for violating U.S. trade security laws. University professors go to jail for sharing export controlled technology. What happens when the U.S. government does it? Usually, political tumbleweed. If your lucky, a Congressional investigation or two. Which is why an article about a new Israeli missile facility caught my attention. It appears someone in our government revealed a lot of insider information.
According to an Israeli government source cited in various news articles,
“If an enemy of Israel wanted to launch an attack against a facility, this would give him an easy how-to guide. This type of information is closely guarded and its release can jeopardise the entire facility. This is more than worrying, it is shocking.”
It truly is, at many levels a shocking development. It would be good to know why this happened and for what purpose? Several news accounts, including Jane’s Defence that initially published an account about this issue, report that thousands of blue prints were revealed as well as supposedly sensitive how-to information on the structure that would encase the missile system was to be built.
If this truly was an unauthorized and unsanctioned disclosure, and a U.S. person or company had done it, heads would roll. If the Obama Administration is truly concerned about reforming our national trade security system, they should set an example. It starts them. Or it should.