Campaign Promises

Departments -> State -> Export Controls

Export ControlsGrade
ST-17 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-Biden 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 the Chinese on the causes of U.S. missile launch failure. These restrictions were viewed by some as a declaration of economic and technological war by the U.S. Government against U.S. businesses and 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 would 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.

On 05/22/12, Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO) introduced the "Safeguarding United States Leadership and Security Act of 2012" (S. 3211) which would give the President the authority to transfer certain satellites and their components from the USML to the less restrictive CCL. While this bill did not advance through Congress, its provisions were included in the House version of the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act.

On 11/10/14,some satellites, spacecraft, and components were moved from the USML (ITAR control) to CCL (EAR control):
- Communications satellites that do not contain classified components or capability;
- Remote sensing satellites with performance parameters below certain thresholds; and
- Systems, subsystems parts, and components associated with these satellites and with performance parameters below a certain threshold.

This promise was fulfilled.
ST-18 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-Biden Plan: "Advancing the Frontiers of Space Exploration" dated 08/15/08.
Status:As of end-CY2016, the processing time for export licenses was about 45 days, and about 95% of applications were approved. Viewed against 21st Century technological advances, 45 days is an eternity for U.S. companies trying to satisfy their international customers.

In 08/09, President Obama directed 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.

Also in 04/10, Defense Secretary Gates announced a "4 Singles" approach to export licensing reform. The basic tenets of the "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.

Years later, the Obama Administration and Congress were still working to develop and codify the "4 Singles," whereas a simple amendment to Executive Order 11958, Administration of Arms Export Controls, could have accomplished this objective.

By creating a single licensing agency as proposed by Secretary Gates, conflicting State, Defense and Commerce regulations could be eliminated and the licensing process simplified.

As of end-CY2016, the arms export licensing process had not been significantly improved.

This promise was not fulfilled.