U.S. Begins Export Reform of Aircraft, Engines

 - March 15, 2013, 9:30 AM
Common parts on the F/A-18 will no longer have the same status as the fighter itself under U.S. export control reform. (Photo: Boeing)

The Obama Administration notified Congress on March 7 of planned revisions to the U.S. Munitions List (USML) in the aircraft and gas-turbine engine categories. The revisions will move items considered to be non-sensitive or having dual military and commercial uses from the State Department-administered USML to the more flexible Commerce Control List (CCL) under the administration’s export control reform initiative.

The USML is subject to International Traffic in Arms Regulations (Itar) controlling the export of defense-related items. In a fact sheet explaining the changes, the White House said the current USML controls every item equally; whether it be an F/A-18 fighter or a bolt modified for use on the fighter, each requires an individual export license. “This system has created significant obstacles and delays in providing equipment to allies and partners for interoperability with U.S. forces in places like Afghanistan, and harms the health and competitiveness of the U.S. industrial base,” the document states. “The revised USML will enable the United States to better focus its resources on items that deserve the highest levels of export protection and on destinations of concern, while providing American companies with a streamlined export authorization process for thousands of parts and components.”

The revisions are specific to USML categories VIII for aircraft and XIX for gas-turbine engines. Changes to other categories will be published on a rolling basis this year and will ultimately revise every category of defense articles, the White House said.

President Obama ordered a review of the U.S. export control system in August 2009, some seven months after taking office. The State and Commerce departments issued proposed regulations to revise their respective export control lists in December 2010. The administration envisions a three-phase export reform effort, now in the second phase of restructuring the USML and CCL into “identical tiered and positive lists.” Revising the lists as “positive” means they will describe items using objective criteria, “such as qualities to be measured…or other precise descriptions, rather than broad, open-ended, subjective, catch-all or design intent-based criteria.”

The third phase of the reform effort, which will require legislation by Congress, would merge the USML and CCL into one list of controlled items administered by a single licensing agency.

The Aerospace Industries Association, which has for years advocated for export control reform, said the administration’s notification to Congress represents a “critical step” toward that goal. “The inflexible application of export control restrictions coupled with their lack of clarity has long been a burden to the U.S. defense industrial base, a barrier to cooperation with our military allies and partners and a boon to our foreign competitors,” the association said.