The reason I ask is that Secretary Gates, following up on a directive by President Obama last August to undertake a thorough review of the USG's export-control regime, today made a major speech to a meeting of the Business Executives for National Security outlining exactly why the old system isn't working and how he envisions the reform process going.
This is sort of a big deal, I guess, especially when considered in concert with the SECDEF's article in the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs advocating for security assistance reform (about which more later). Export-control reform can be seen as a significant part of streamlining the security assistance process, making it more flexible, agile, and responsive -- something that everybody wants.
The fact is . . . America’s decades-old, bureaucratically labyrinthine system does not serve our 21st-century security needs or our economic interests. It is clear our current limitations in this area undermine our ability to work with and through partners to confront shared threats and challenges – from terrorism to rogue states to rising powers. Our security interests would be far better served by a more agile, transparent, predictable, and efficient regime. Tinkering around the edges of our current system will not do.
For these reasons and more, in August of last year, the president directed a broad-based review of the U.S. export-control regime. He has called for reforms that focus controls on key technologies and items that pose the greatest national-security threat. These include items and technologies related to global terrorism, the proliferation and delivery systems of weapons of mass destruction, and advanced conventional weapons. In short, a system where higher walls are placed around fewer, more critical items.
Following this directive, and informed by a recent National Intelligence Council assessment of the key national-security considerations, I have worked closely with my counterparts at the departments of State, Commerce, Homeland Security, as well as with the director of national intelligence and the national security advisor to develop a blueprint for such a system. Our plan relies on four key reforms: a single export-control list, a single licensing agency, a single enforcement-coordination agency, and a single information-technology system.
So if you care about this, tell me. Or if you have questions, ask them. We can go into this deeper, and I can provide you with a whole lot of context and explain why this is important to national security, or how the old system works, or why the new system will or won't be better, or whatever, or we can all be happy to say "export-control regime(s) being reformed and streamlined, check, duly noted, carry on smartly," etc. It's up to y'all.
(Note that this reader discretion does not extend to security assistance reform, which I am going to beat you over the head with whether you like it or not. But again, more on that later.)
UPDATE: I initially forgot to include the link to this transcript of a "senior defense officials" press briefing on export-control reform from Monday (prior to the SECDEF's speech).
While we're at it, here's some other coverage, too: Post / Spencer / Hill / Reuters
And Bernard Finel pops in to usefully link us to Evelyn Farkas' report on the subject for the American Security Project, which strikes me as thorough and well-done (if perhaps a touch OBE as a result of these most recent announcements).