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Thursday, March 1, 2012

The U.S. Export Control System and the President’s Reform Initiative

Ian F. Fergusson
Specialist in International Trade and Finance

Paul K. Kerr
Analyst in Nonproliferation

The 112th Congress may consider reforms of the U.S. export control system. The balance between
national security and export competitiveness has made the subject of export controls controversial
for decades. Through the Export Administration Act (EAA), the Arms Export Control Act
(AECA), the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), and other authorities, the
United States restricts the export of defense items or munitions; so-called “dual-use” goods and
technology—items with both civilian and military applications; certain nuclear materials and
technology; and items that would assist in the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological
weapons or the missile technology used to deliver them. U.S. export controls are also used to
restrict exports to certain countries on which the United States imposes economic sanctions. At
present, the EAA has expired and dual-use controls are maintained under IEEPA authorities.

The U.S. export control system is diffused among several different licensing and enforcement
agencies. Exports of dual-use goods and technologies are licensed by the Department of
Commerce, munitions are licensed by the Department of State, and restrictions on exports based
on U.S. sanctions are administered by the U.S. Treasury. Enforcement of export controls is
conducted by these agencies as well as by units of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
and the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Aspects of the U.S. export control system have long been criticized by exporters, nonproliferation
advocates, and other stakeholders as being too rigorous, insufficiently rigorous,
cumbersome, obsolete, inefficient, or any combination of these descriptions. In August 2009, the
Obama Administration launched a comprehensive review of the U.S. export control system. In
April 2010, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates proposed an outline of a new system based on
four singularities:

·         a single export control licensing agency for both dual-use and munitions exports,
·         a unified control list,
·         a single enforcement coordination agency, and
·         a single integrated information technology (IT) system.
The creation of a single control list has been the Administration’s focus to date. Interim steps
have also been taken to create a single IT system and to establish an export enforcement
coordination center. No specific proposals have been made concerning the single licensing

In contrast to the Administration’s approach, legislation has been introduced to reauthorize or
rewrite the EAA in the 112
th Congress. The Export Administration Renewal Act of 2011 (H.R.
2122, Ros-Lehtinen) would renew the currently expired Export Administration Act through 2015,
update its penalty and enforcement provisions, and provide stricter foreign policy controls on
countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism. A separate title would amend the Arms Export
Control Act to permit generic parts and components for defense articles to be controlled
differently than sensitive defense articles on the U.S. Munitions List. By contrast, the Technology
Security Act of 2011 (H.R. 2004, Berman) would rewrite the dual-use export control statute by
giving the President the authority to control exports for national security and foreign policy
reasons and to create the mechanisms for doing so. Each bill would, if passed, have implications
for the President’s reform efforts.

Date of Report: February 1
6, 2012
Number of Pages:
Order Number: R4
Price: $29.95

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