The Obama Administration will consolidate licensing, control lists and data systems to bring a “Byzantine” export control system into a single office, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday.
Gates told members of Business Executives for National Security that the administration plans the reform in three phases that will consolidate all lists of arms, munitions and dual-use technology items, a unified information technology system to manage the list technologies, and finally a single agency to administer all export licensing.
The administration within the next few weeks will issue executive orders to begin work on the control lists and IT system. The White House will propose legislation for a new agency by the end of the year, Gates said.
Gates called the current export control system a “Byzantine amalgam of authorities, roles, and missions scattered around different parts of the federal government.”
“America’s decades-old, bureaucratically labyrinthine system does not serve our 21st Century security needs or our economic interests,” he said.
Under the existing system, export control is divided among the departments of Commerce, State and Treasury, with additional oversight from Defense. Gates said that senior-level officials in all the departments support the reform.
In his State of the Union address in January, President Obama called reform of export controls a major part of his overall strategy to increase U.S. exports.
Members of the trade were cautiously optimistic about the plan, although they noted that Gates did not discuss a myriad of details that must be worked out before a new export control regime takes hold.
The administration will also have to win Congress over to the new system, but Catherine Robinson, director of high-tech trade policy for the National Association of Manufacturers, said that an increasing number of members of Congress recognize the need to reform the system.
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