Four U.S. House of Representative Foreign Affairs Committee members introduced bipartisan legislation on Nov. 15 (H.R. 4246) that would modernize the federal government's export control policy by strengthening national security and helping American companies sell more defense-related goods and services overseas to U.S. allies.
Sponsored by U.S. Reps. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Don Manzullo (R-IL), Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), the Defense Trade Controls Performance Improvement Act of 2007 would direct the State Department to hire more staff to reduce the massive backlog of license applications that impedes legitimate trade with allies and prevents extended scrutiny on real threats to national security. Today, the State Department has only 42 licensing officers. By 2009, this legislation would increase by nearly 50 percent the number of officers reviewing export and import licenses. The legislation also streamlines the process by eliminating the license requirement for exports of spare parts on items already approved by the U.S. government.
"Our current export control policy was designed for the Cold War and we must reform the system to address the national security priorities of the 21st Century."said Sherman. "This legislation is designed to address the problems of our high-tech trade system which is underfunded and understaffed. We do not want to let our technology fall into the wrong hands, but neither can we afford to lose jobs and exports of legitimate products to our closest friends and allies because the U.S. is too slow to issue a license.â€
"If the Departments of State and Defense have approved the export of a major defense article to one of our closest allies, why are we requiring licenses for nuts, bolts, and brackets to keep those items working?"Manzullo asked. "This legislation streamlines the process, reduces the application backlog, and allows greater scrutiny on sensitive exports that could harm our country. It would better protect our nation while helping U.S. companies sell more goods and services to our allies, creating more jobs for Americans.â€
The Defense Trade Controls Performance Improvement Act of 2007 reportedly remedies many of the deficiencies in the licensing of defense trade by: Â· Directing the Secretary of State to review the U.S. export control system and offer recommendations to strengthen controls, improve efficiency, and reduce redundancies across federal agencies Â· Requiring the State Department to hire additional licensing officers to eliminate the application backlog and expedite the processing of licenses for our closest allies Â· Creating greater transparency in defense trade license processing, making it easier for businesses to follow the law Â· Allowing U.S. manufacturers to export spare and replacement parts without a license to the governments of our NATO allies, Australia, New Zealand and Japan for defense articles that were previously lawfully exported.