The purpose of U.S. export control policy is to keep sensitive goods and technology away from our potential adversaries and facilitate legitimate trade with our allies. These “Cold War

At the beginning of the 110th Congress when I was reappointed to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I made it my mission to improve the U.S. export control system to make the U.S. safer and more competitive. I formed the Congressional Export Control Working Group with my colleagues Representatives Joe Crowley and Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerInauguration parties lose the glitz and glamour in 2021 Four things Democrats should do in Biden's first 100 days House Republican wants restrictions on masks with messages MORE. I began looking for ways to streamline our system and educate my colleagues on my findings. I identified the greatest area of opportunity for improvement in the regulation of defense trade through the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR) that is overseen by the Department of State’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC).

This agency has been underfunded and overwhelmed for years. This has led to serious backlogs in licensing applications, confusing rules and regulations that are often erratically applied, and serious delays in legitimate sales to our closest allies. Additionally, defense trade licensing has grown at 8 percent per year in the last 6 years with no increase in licensing officers to screen those applications.

International customers routinely penalize American manufacturers for not meeting their contractual obligations because of delays in defense trade licensing. The worst part of these job destroying delays is they provide very little corresponding benefit while making U.S. manufacturers look unreliable and less competitive. The debate is not whether or not we should sell defense items to one of our allies, but how quickly we arrive at that decision. Manufacturers sometimes wait for months before they receive an answer on whether they can export a nut, bolt or bracket.

That is why I have teamed up with Representatives Sherman, Blunt, and Crowley to make common sense reforms that will not only make us more competitive, but actually improve U.S. national security by focusing our scarce resources on higher risk areas.

H.R. 4246, the Defense Trade Controls Performance Improvement Act goes a long way in addressing the inadequacies of our current export control system by:

• Directing the Secretary of State to review the U.S. export control system and offer recommendations to strengthen controls, improve efficiency, and reduce redundancies across federal agencies;
• Requiring the State Department to hire additional licensing officers to eliminate the application backlog and expedite the processing of licenses for our closest allies;
• Creating greater transparency in defense trade license processing, making it easier for businesses to follow the law; and
• Allowing U.S. manufacturers to export spare and replacement parts without a license to the governments of our NATO allies, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, for defense articles that were previously lawfully exported.

While this bill will not correct all of the federal government’s inefficient export control policies, it will go a long way to strengthen national security and help American companies sell more defense-related goods and services overseas to our allies.