Rx for Export Controls

By Gaffney, Frank, Jr. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 23, 2000 | Go to article overview

Rx for Export Controls


Gaffney, Frank, Jr., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


In a column earlier this month, we considered the effects of the Clinton-Gore administration's purposeful evisceration of the domestic and multilateral export-control regimes - a record of misfeasance, if not actual malfeasance, that will be among the most lasting and expensive of this presidency's dubious legacies. While it may not be possible to undo all the damage thus wrought, there are nonetheless a number of steps that would help to mitigate the dangers associated with this "anything goes" approach to technology transfers:

* First, do no harm. It would be a grave mistake to adopt in its present form S.1712, a bill that would reauthorize - but greatly weaken - the Export Administration Act (EAA) that was allowed to expire in the early 1990s. As currently written, this legislation would confirm in law the Clinton-Gore practice of precluding executive branch agencies responsible for national security from exercising real influence over the export-control process. It would grant the Commerce Department, for all intents and purposes, sole authority over which technologies are subjected to restrictions. The bill would also confer on the Banking Committee exclusive jurisdiction for areas clearly within the purview of other Senate committees charged with oversight of the defense, foreign policy and intelligence portfolios.

A new EAA is certainly needed, but not one that will compound the present problem.

* Appropriate balance must be restored between commercial and national security interests in the export-control process. For this to occur, several changes will have to be made to re-establish the authority, expertise and effective involvement of the Defense and State Departments and the intelligence community. These would include the following:

1. Restoring a focus for the export-control effort. Russia and China must be understood to be part of the problem, not - for the time being, at least - part of the solution. Equipping them with militarily relevant technologies is a strategic mistake in its own right. Thinking that either Moscow or Beijing, to say nothing of both, will help us prevent such technologies from reaching rogue states is recklessly irresponsible.

2. Reconstituting the Pentagon's ability to play its proper role: It is not enough to give the Defense Department a voice in export-control matters. The department must be staffed and represented in interagency forums in such a way that that voice constitutes a real national security-minded check on the rest of the process. During the Clinton years, this has not been the case as political appointees and their career subordinates at Defense have become among the most forward-leaning of any agency when it comes to approving the transfer of strategic technologies. The Joint Chiefs of Staff organization has all but ceased to perform needed analyses of the military impact of licensing decisions.

Matters have been made vastly worse by an internal reorganization of the department that has resulted in subordinating the Defense Technology Security Agency to additional layers of bureaucracy, the vesting of relevant responsibilities in the Pentagon's exporter-friendly acquisition organization and the physical relocation of DTSA to the functional equivalent of Siberia. …

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