Rethinking Import And Export Controls For Defense-Related Goods
By: Jacques Gansler, William Lucyshyn
There is little doubt that America’s capacity to successfully wage war relies on promoting the health of the defense industry. At the same time, however, the U.S. must have selective controls on foreign access to critical defense technologies. Accordingly, import and export controls for defense-related goods and information have long been the focus of debate among American policymakers and business advocates.
Because the United States is a dominant and growing source of many countries’ defense technology, the ideological battle over import and export controls has grown fiercer. At the center of this debate is the question of whether emphasis should be placed on national security concerns—controlling access to American military technology—or economic concerns— permitting American manufacturers and companies to more easily export these technologies for profit, while protecting them from foreign competition. Defense industry advocates, for their part, argue that current law stifles business, citing, for example, the intense and long licensing processes that are required to export seemingly insignificant items (e.g., nuts and bolts that are considered “dual-use” because at one point they were developed for use in military weapons systems; Avery, 2012). At the same time, some national security experts argue for greater sharing with our allies in order to ensure interoperability and maximum overall military capability, when fighting together in a coalition.