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BIS Official Indicates Export Control Reform Will be On-going Process

Although most of the initial regulatory revisions associated with the export control reform initiative have been completed, ECR “will never really end” because its objectives “are now baked into the system.” That was the message to attendees at the Bureau of Industry and Security’s recent Update Conference in Washington, D.C., from Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration Kevin Wolf, who asserted that ECR “has helped produce a more reliable, predictable, and transparent structure that benefits all of us.”

A review early in the Obama administration concluded that the U.S. export control system was overly complicated, contained too many redundancies, and, in trying to protect too much, diminished the United States’ ability to focus its efforts on the most critical national security priorities. ECR was subsequently launched to address these problems by first reconciling various export control definitions, regulations, and policies and then ultimately creating a single control list, single licencing agency, unified information technology system, and enforcement co-ordination centre. To date hundreds of items have been moved from the U.S. Munitions List to the Commerce Control List, revising the licencing policies for these items and allowing for streamlined exports for ultimate government end-use to 36 U.S. allies and most countries that are members of all four multi-lateral export control regimes.

However, Wolf said that ECR will not end when these changes are complete and instead will be an on-going process. Agencies will continue to identify, as precisely as possible, those items providing a significant military or intelligence capability and thus warranting control on the USML, he said, with all other military and controlled dual-use items on the CCL. Agencies will also continue to review and adjust the controls to ensure they are clear, do not inadvertently control on the USML items in normal commercial use, and account for technological developments.

In addition, notices of inquiry asking for ideas on how to improve the categories and the rules will be published on a regular basis. Wolf said BIS will be particularly looking to (i) find and fix actual mistakes; (ii) describe particular provisions more clearly if it is apparent, based on their application since being published, that they could be written better; (iii) increase controls based on new threats or emerging technologies of concern; and (iv) decrease controls based on, for example, increased commercialisation of less sensitive items. BIS is also willing to work with exporters and re-exporters to see if licences for specific programmes or topics can be streamlined to reduce the burden for companies and the government.

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