Campaign Promises

Cabinet/Departments -> State -> Export Controls

Export ControlsGrade
The Promise: "...will direct a review of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) to reevaluate restrictions imposed on American companies, with a special focus on space hardware that is currently restricted from commercial export."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Advancing the Frontiers of Space Exploration" dated 08/15/08.
Status:Since CY1999, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) have imposed severe export controls not only on the USA's defense/weapons systems, but on communications satellites and virtually all spacecraft and space hardware, software and related materials. These restrictions came about after two U.S. satellite manufacturers were found to have aided China missile development efforts by advising he Chinese on the causes of U.S. missile launch failure. These restrictions have been viewed by some as a declaration of economic and technological war by the U.S. Government against U.S. national interests.

On 08/14/09, President Obama announced his decision to undertake a comprehensive review of U.S. export controls, referred to as the Export Control Reform (ECR) Initiative. This Initiative was to be accomplished in three phases:

Phases 1 and 2 - reconcile various definitions, regulations, and policies for export controls

Phase 3 - create a single export control list, a single licensing agency, a single enforcement coordination agency, and a unified information technology system.

In response to this challenge, the Department of Defense, in cooperation with the Departments of State, Commerce, Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence and National Security Agency devised a blueprint for implementing the President's direction with the understanding that some of the above changes could be implemented via Executive Order, while others would require Congressional notification/action.

On 03/11/11, the Department of State Directorate of Defense Trade Controls published a new proposed rule that establishes conditions under which an ITAR license will not be required for the export of a defense article incorporated into an end-item that is subject to export controls under the Department of Commerce's Export Administration Regulations (EAR).

On 07/12/11, the Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) published a proposed rule for the transfer of items on the U.S. Munitions List (USML) that the President determines no longer warrant control under the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) to the Commerce Control List (CCL) once Congressional notification requirements are met.

In 04/12, the Department of Defense issued its report recommending that some U.S.-built satellites and components be transferred from the USML to the CCL. This is an On-going process.

On 05/22/12, Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO) introduced the "Safeguarding United States Leadership and Security Act of 2012" (S. 3211) which would in part restore to the President the authority to transfer certain satellites and their components from the USML to the less restrictive CCL. The House version of the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act contains a similar provision.

Tangible progress has been made toward promise fulfillment. Let's wait to see whether restrictions on the commercial export of space-related hardware are actually lifted or whether the President is newly authorized to effect the satellite/component transfers from the UDML to the CCL before assigning a final grade.
The Promise: "...will also direct revisions to the licensing process to ensure that American suppliers are competitive in the international aerospace markets, without jeopardizing American national security."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Advancing the Frontiers of Space Exploration" dated 08/15/08.
Status:Inn 08/09, President Obama direct a top-to-bottom review of the nation's export control system. A major component of this review involved licensing procedures.

In 04/10, an Interagency Task Force reported its findings and concluded that a single licensing agency should be formed (State, Commerce and Defense currently have licensing responsibilities that often do not complement one another) and that licencing reform should ensue in three phases:

Phase 1: Implement regulatory-based improvements to streamline licensing processes and standardize policy and processes to increase efficiencies.

Phase 2: Complete transition to mirrored control list system and fully implement licensing harmonization to allow export authorizations within each control tier to achieve a significant license requirement reduction which is compatible with national security equities.

Phase 3: Implement a single licensing agency.

We also heard from the Pentagon in 04/10 when Defense Secretary Gates announced a "4 singles" approach to export licensing reform. As of early-CY2013, the Obama Administration and Congress are still working to develop and codify the basic tenets of that "4 singles" initiative: (1) a more predictable, efficient and transparent technology control regime that will create a single control list, (2) a single primary enforcement coordination agency, (3) a single information technology system, and (4) a single licensing agency. These reforms would help facilitate exports from U.S.-based aerospace manufacturers to international markets. Unfortunately, the first four years of the Obama presidency were insufficient to generate meaningful progress on these requirements for the aerospace industry outside of Pentagon walls.

While the above reflected initial progress toward promise fulfillment, the Pentagon reported on 06/10/11 that it had a backlog of 13K arms export applications, up from 10K in CY2010, valued at $327B, with special emphasis on the increased international demand for unmanned aerial vehicles (drones). Numbers for CY2012 are not yet available.

This promise has not been fulfilled.