Byline: Eli Lake, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The Obama administration will create a new agency to approve export controls on sensitive military technologies as part of a larger effort to boost U.S. exports for the ailing economy.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in a speech Tuesday that the new export control system will unify enforcement and licensing, now split among several agencies, into what defense officials are calling the four singles.
The reforms will produce a single list of exports subject to new controls, one agency for licensing those exports, a separate enforcement agency to guard against ilicit exports of technology, and a single information-technology network aimed at streamlining the licensing process.
The new reforms also seek to limit the number of exports currently subject to the highest regulatory scrutiny.
Some people will be concerned that having fewer items subject to the most onerous export restrictions will make it easier for hostile states or groups to obtain weaponry and technology that potentially could be used against us, Mr. Gates said in a speech to the group Business Executives for National Security.
No system - above all, the current one - is foolproof, he said. but by consolidating most export licensing functions in one agency and creating an enforcement coordination agency, we can focus our energies and scrutiny on technologies that truly threaten American security, making it far less likely that these critical items will fall into the wrong hands.
Mr. Gates' announcement followed a National Intelligence Estimate produced earlier this year that concluded that the country's 50-year-old export-control system posed a threat to national security, according to defense officials who briefed reporters Monday.
President Obama said in March that he wants to double U.S. exports in the next five years as part of an economic program to boost jobs. In his State of the Union address, the president promised to reform export controls consistent with national security.
In recent months, officials from the Pentagon have been working with relevant members of Congress on the possible reforms.
The new export-control reforms were welcomed by business groups eager to increase exports but elicited warnings of caution from national security specialists.
Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, said the proposal to streamline export licensing favored arms makers.
There seems to be an effort to consolidate authority over export controls to the place in the government most favorable to industry, Mr. Milhollin said. Anytime you create a special agency to do something where industry has a lot of money at stake, there is a risk that industry will take over the agency. …