On Tuesday the administration took another step forward in efforts to reform export control policy in the US, a source of considerable distress for many in the space industry. The goal of the new plan, as laid out in a speech by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in a speech, is to simplify the current system to make it more effective. “The United States is thought to have one of the most stringent export regimes in the world, but stringent is not the same as effective,” Gates notes.
The new plan, as described in a fact sheet issued by the White House, is called by one DoD official the “four singles”: a single control list, a single enforcement agency, a single IT system, and a single licensing agency. That would a major change from the current system, where there’s the more stringent US Munitions List and less stringent Commerce Control List, overseen by different agencies with different systems. Satellites and related components, for example, were once on the CCL but moved to the USML in the late 1990s; there’s legislation in Congress right now that would allow the president to remove them from the USML (presumably back onto the CCL) if he so chooses.
Left unstated is how this three-phase plan (starting with “significant and immediate improvements to the existing system” while laying the foundation for the more significant changes that will require Congressional action) will take, or how space-related items will fare under the new plan. Gates, according to a press account of his speech, talked about a “tiered approach to export control that he said would allow the United States to build higher walls around truly crucial technologies while lowering walls around others”; how high the walls will be around space technologies remains to be seen.