International Affairs:

Administration of Export Controls Under Export Administration Act

Published: Apr 30, 1981. Publicly Released: Apr 30, 1981.

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Under the Export Administration Act, the United States controls the export of dual use commercial products and processes for national security, foreign policy, and short supply purposes. A GAO review addressed congressional concerns about how well the system is carrying out the act's national security goal of controlling exports of military significant technology and products to Russia and other Eastern bloc nations. This aspect of the control system requires that the Department of Defense (DOD) must be consulted by the Department of Commerce and that DOD may recommend that the President deny any application on national security grounds. U.S. industry complains about the cumbersome, inconsistent and unnecessarily rigid procedures of the system, and that uncertainties in the system impact on their reliability. Other critics believe that the system is too loose and that inadequate safeguards are permitting the Communist countries to enhance their military capabilities through U.S. technology. GAO also reviewed actions taken to amend the control lists and to enforce compliance with control legislation. GAO found that: (1) criteria for inclusion of technology subject to control is too broad, far fewer items are actually being controlled; (2) a large part of the system is simply a paper process which overly burdens U.S. exporters and reduces the time available to review important applications; (3) the review of critical cases should be improved; and (4) there are serious constraints to deterring unauthorized exports. Recognizing that effective export control for Communist country destinations requires international cooperation, the United States carries out these activities in conjunction with its NATO partners and Japan. Since 1969, export control legislation has been shifting toward liberalizing controls on trade with Communist nations. In foreign policy, there have been alternating political highs and lows in U.S. relationships with Communist countries. These affected the export control system by making decisionmaking more restricted during confrontation periods and more permissive during cooperative periods. Congress has supported eliminating controls for items that no longer represent a military risk. Industry also argues for a stronger decontrol of exports. Low technology exports could be removed from licensing requirements without jeopardizing U.S. national security.

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