Leaving the Back Door Open: How Export Control Reform's Deregulation May Harm America's Security

January 30, 2014

A convoluted system regulating arms-related technology exports has frustrated U.S. defense manufacturers for decades. The Obama Administration is implementing sweeping reforms and relaxing export controls to address these concerns. While described as an attempt to bolster national security by aiding the U.S. private sector’s dominance of defense technology markets, these reforms pose a substantial risk of enabling America’s enemies in their quest to acquire U.S. military capabilities and defeat our interests domestically and abroad. The battlefields of Iraq witnessed the ability of insurgents to achieve devastating results with relatively simplistic U.S. technologies. Removing higher scrutiny from the exportation of many seemingly innocuous technologies discounts the ability of America’s enemies to similarly acquire and utilize these capabilities in asymmetric threats to the military, acts of terror, and daily repression of peoples around the world. Appeasing defense manufacturers, whose ultimate obligations are to shareholders and profitability rather than the security of the American people, may actually harm, rather than bolster, America’s national security. By circumventing national security statutes with regulations that focus on high-tech military end items and easing licensing requirements, Export Control Reform leaves the proverbial “back door” open to threats from deregulated technologies.