With Mira Ricardel in place, it’s time to complete export control reforms
© Getty Images

The Senate’s confirmation of Mira Ricardel as Undersecretary of Commerce for Export Administration is yet another excellent appointment by President Trump. Ricardel brings years of experience in the public and private sectors to this key position.

With Ricardel now in place, the Trump administration can get to work on completing much needed, and long overdue, export control reforms — changes that are pro-manufacturing, pro-jobs and directly in line with the president’s economic goals.

Cold War era export controls, such as: the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) have been hurting U.S. businesses by giving foreign companies a competitive advantage over U.S. companies in the global marketplace. Due to controls under the AECA and ITAR, U.S. firearm and ammunition manufacturers and distributors are required to obtain licenses from the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) in order to export sporting firearms and ammunition.  

As former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates once explained, the goal of export control reform is to “build a higher fence around a smaller yard” to better protect U.S. national security. Having the Department of State, instead of Commerce, license for export bolt action .22 caliber single shot rifles used at Boy Scout camp, diverts State Department resources from approving weapons that provide our soldiers a tactical advantage on the battlefield.

Couple these regulations with the requirement that the export of firearms and spare parts exceeding $1 million receive congressional notification, and it is almost impossible for U.S. manufacturers to compete with foreign companies, costing jobs.

Our companies are consistently sidelined from requests for proposals (RFPs) from allied militaries and law enforcement agencies because they cannot be assured they will meet contract deadlines due to congressional and DDTC notification. These potential delays give foreign companies a strategic advantage over American manufacturers as they are not required to jump the same hurdles. What’s worse, in recent years we have seen an increase in foreign buyers specifically excluding any ITAR controlled products or parts from RFPs, completely shutting out U.S. companies from the competition.  

This issue has been recognized by lawmakers on both sides of the Obama and Trump administrations. Though many export control reform rules were implemented for all other industries under the previous administration, those related to firearms and ammunition were drafted, but for purely domestic political reasons never published.

The proposed rules primarily involve moving the export licensing of commercial dual-use items to the Commerce Department’s Commerce Control List (CCL) from the U.S. Munitions List (USML). Sporting firearms and ammunition should be moved to the CCL from the USML and be licensed by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) has been working with key members of the Departments of State and Commerce to ensure that these rules are finally published.

These reforms would immediately improve our industry’s ability to compete in the global marketplace, without impairing national security. Our manufacturers will create jobs to fulfill large orders to our allies — benefitting communities across the United States.

With Undersecretary Ricardel confirmed, these reforms have a real chance to be implemented. With the support of Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Ross, and President Trump, these new rules can be swiftly put into place.

These reforms will be another piece of the president’s promise to strengthen the American economy, create jobs, increase our nation’s presence in the global marketplace, and make America great again. We look forward to working with his administration to achieve these objectives.

Lawrence G. Keane is senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill