U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the following opening statement at a hearing earlier today entitled, "Export Controls, Arms Sales, and Reform: Balancing U.S. Interests (Part I):"
"This morning, the Committee is holding the first in a series of hearings examining United States strategic export controls, what I would prefer to call "trade security,' and sweeping changes proposed by the Executive Branch.
"As Members are aware, the main goal of export controls is to keep certain states or non-state actors from developing or acquiring military capabilities that could threaten important U.S. security interests. United States policy, with respect to the export of sensitive technology, has long been to seek a balance between the U.S. economic interest in promoting exports, and our national security interest in maintaining a military advantage over potential adversaries, and denying the spread of technologies that could be used in developing weapons of mass destruction.
"Clearly, the U.S. has a compelling interest in protecting its critical technologies from theft, espionage, reverse engineering, illegal export, and diversion to unintended recipients.
"In this regard, we understand from press reports that a U.S. helicopter with certain advanced radar-evading designs crashed during the otherwise flawless raid to capture or kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. While the U.S. team took steps to destroy the helicopter to protect the know-how relating to the design, engineering, and manufacture of this sensitive defense item, there are reports that sufficient parts of the helicopter remained intact to afford foreign entities significant insight into our technology. Pakistani officials must offer full cooperation with the U.S. to safeguard and ensure the immediate return of any parts, and prevent the sharing of any information about them with third parties.
"This example clearly illustrates the need and value of strategic export controls. Over the years, numerous Congressional hearings and GAO reports have called attention to the need to reexamine our export control system. Responding to these concerns, the President announced in August 2009 that he had directed the National Security Council to carry out such a study. Last year the Administration proposed a complete reorganization of the current system, proposing a single export control list, a single licensing agency, a single primary enforcement coordination agency, and a single information technology system.
"Ultimately, new legislative authorities would be required to implement the Administration's plan -- a plan substantially at variance with the current statutory scheme for controlling defense articles under the Arms Export Control Act and dual-use items under the Export Administration Act, and requiring Committee review. To date, a compelling case has not been made for the wholesale restructuring of our current system, especially one that would include the creation of a costly and perhaps unaccountable new federal bureaucracy.
"Although there are several aspects of the ongoing reforms that many of us do support, I want to focus on challenging issues associated with proposed reforms of the current munitions and dual-use control lists. We are particularly concerned that the pace and scope of the ongoing "list review" -- which simultaneously includes: establishing a new "tiering' structure for controlled exports; a comprehensive review of the Munitions List; and a complete re-write of that list's 21 categories of defense items -- is straining the system and its personnel to its breaking point.
"The Executive Branch interagency review is only one part of the process. As required by section 38(f) of the Arms Export Control Act, any item which the Executive Branch proposes to remove from the Munitions List must first be reviewed by the Committees on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Relations of the House and Senate, respectively.
"Although the Committee intends to work with the Administration to expeditiously review hundreds or thousands of 38(f) cases in the months ahead, we will and must vigorously perform our due diligence on these important security matters in accordance with existing protocols. The Committee cannot fulfill its oversight responsibilities in this regard, however, until it understands fully how such articles would be regulated under Commerce jurisdiction, as well as assess enforceability of the new controls.
"However, largely due to the complexity of the ongoing reforms, clarity with respect to future licensing policy has not been forthcoming. The Administration should reconsider this time-consuming exercise and focus on common sense reforms upon which we can all agree.
"One example may be the treatment of generic parts and components -- rivets, wire, bolts and the like -- currently controlled on the Munitions List because they were designed for military use but which have little in the way of inherent military utility. Toward this end, I intend to introduce legislation to clarify that generic parts and components need not be regulated in the same manner as the more sensitive defense articles. This modest, but important, step would address a key concern of small- and medium-sized enterprises, larger defense firms, and our allies.
"Unlike the breathtaking scope of the proposed Administration reforms, this initiative can be implemented in a timely manner without precipitating institutional gridlock or sparking significant friction with the Legislative Branch. In so doing, the Committee will seek to ensure that this effort is fully consistent with our broader national security interests, including by: preventing transfers or retransfers of such articles to Iran; ensuring consistency with current prohibitions on the transfer of defense and dual-use items to China, for example; and requiring that any subsequent lessening of controls for these items meet with the concurrence of the Departments of State and Defense, as well as be reviewed by Congress.
"These, and other legislative changes, together with our intent to authorize a short-term extension of the lapsed Export Administration Act, will help enable Congress and the Administration to tackle together the critical changes necessary to strengthen our national security, while advancing commercial interests.
"I now recognize Mr. Berman, the Ranking Member, for his opening remarks."