The Path Forward on Export Control Reform

Tom Kelly
Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Washington, DC
February 4, 2014

Date: 02/04/2014 Description: Acting Assistant Secretary Kelly (second from right) discusses Export Control Reform at CSIS, February 4, 2014. © Photo courtesy of CSIS

Good morning, great to be here with you today. As Acting Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs, I lead the Bureau charged with implementing most of the State Department’s part of the Export Control Reform initiative.

When it comes to implementing ECR, the Administration is focused on creating an export control system that keeps pace with new technologies and supply chain globalization. At the same time, we don’t want this process to sacrifice critical national security and foreign policy objectives, from nonproliferation to supporting human rights.

ECR will streamline U.S. Government decision-making on strategic exports and create a more transparent, predictable system. What it will not do is alter the primacy of foreign policy in the decision-making process for arms exports. Our Foreign Military Sales program, Direct Commercial Sales authorizations, and all exports of munitions from the U.S. will continue to be authorized based on a coordinated review of the foreign policy risks and rewards associated with the transaction. Our newly revised and publicly available Conventional Arms Transfer Policy guides this review. It affirms that the U.S. does not simply allow arms to flow from its borders in response to global demand; we authorize exports that support U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives.

Over the past four months we achieved the first milestones in implementing ECR. In October 2013, the first major revisions to our export control lists went into effect, transferring controls on certain aircraft and gas turbine engines as well as their parts and components from the control of the Department of State to the Department of Commerce. These two categories potentially represent more than $20 billion in annual exports. And this January, new controls on military vehicles and ships went into effect.

Our allies and partners are responding positively to these changes and see many of their concerns related to security of supply addressed by these reforms. The U.S. defense export community is also supportive.

I do want to take this opportunity to – once again – dispel the myth that ECR equals decontrol of arms exports. Any item that is no longer controlled on the U.S. Munitions List is now controlled on the Commerce Control List.

The goal is an agile, dynamic export control regime responsive to today’s and tomorrow’s national security and foreign policy challenges. These new controls reduce bureaucracy, accelerate goods to market for our close allies and security partners, and still maintain a high level of scrutiny over arms exports. Though the full measure of success remains ahead of us, we’re confident that we are on the right path.