Obama Administration Faces Pushback on ITAR Reform on Hill

U.S. Lawmakers Question White House About Overhaul of Export-licensing System

Space News

A White House proposal to overhaul the U.S. export-licensing system could face an uphill battle against Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress who say a compelling case has yet to be made for a wholesale restructuring of the process, which strictly regulates the sale of military and dual-use technologies overseas, including U.S. commercial communications satellites and components.

In August 2009 the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama embarked on a far-reaching effort to reform the way federal government agencies review and process U.S. export license applications, a charge spearheaded largely by outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

But during a May 12 hearing of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileanna Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said the administration’s plan to dramatically overhaul the export-licensing system would require new legislative authority to implement, and that a compelling case has yet to be made for such sweeping reform.

“The administration should reconsider this time-consuming exercise and focus on common sense reforms upon which we can all agree,” Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the committee, said in opening remarks.

Ros-Lehtinen said she plans to introduce legislation this year that would subject generic parts and components on the U.S. Munitions List (USML), a roster of militarily sensitive items whose exports are licensed by the U.S. Department of State, to less-rigorous export controls.

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Editor’s Note: The Obama Administration seems to be taking a thorough and careful approach something that is vital to America’s high-tech base. Its aim is to not only deal with the symptoms of the problem but its root causes and create a fair and clear system that everyone can understand. The Administration has built broad support for the effort, which is already pretty far along.

But, somehow that’s not enough. If the Administration was moving faster, there would be howls from Congress about how it was endangering national security. When it acts responsibly, it gets hit for moving too slowly. You can never please everybody, but it sometimes seems that the Obama Administration can never please Republicans on the Hill.

Ros-Lehtinen’s legislation could probably get part of the reform done quicker, but is it worth junking the on-going process for something that will not likely solve all the problems?