Biotech Gone Mad: Meet the Donkephant

The above image appears in a PowerPoint presentation given by Mike Gold of Bigelow Aerospace during the FAA Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee meeting this week. Specifically, it represents the bipartisan effort by Republicans (symbolized by the elephant) and Democrats (the donkey) to find common ground on reforming the nation’s restrictive export control laws. Generally, it tells me that these guys should stick to building space hardware and not bioengineer disturbing looking animals.

On a more serious note, prospects for export reform are looking up.

Gold’s presentation indicates that research has shown that a great majority items could be removed from the restrictive United States Munitions List (USML) to the less restrictive Commerce Control List. The figures he presented were:

  • 74 percent of the 12,000 items that were license last year in the category will be moved to the CCL [Commerce Control List] or decontrolled entirely
  • 32 percent decontrolled entirely
  • Of the 26 percent that remains on the munitions list, none were in the highest tier, 18 percent in the middle tier, and eight percent in the lowest tier

The Obama Administration wants to combine the USML and CCL into one list, remove unnecessary items, and streamline the process for reviewing applications to export high-tech equipment. The current system is broadly seen as being too restrictive and having caused U.S. companies to lose out on business overseas while building up competition aboard.