Could The US Really Be Agreeing In Paris To Weaker Export Controls After Iraqi Fiascoes?

The Center for Security Policy today expressed incredulity that — despite mounting congressional and press criticism concerning current, deficient U.S. export control policies — the White House is allowing still more radical dismantling of the existing multilateral technology security regime to proceed apace. The result will likely be an even greater and still more dangerous proliferation of militarily relevant dual-use technologies to the potential adversaries in the Third World and elsewhere. Such technologies include those critical to the design, manufacture and delivery of weapons of mass destruction.

Indeed, this week the Administration is putting forward a proposal advanced by the Department of Commerce to the members of the Coordinating Committee on Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM) which will cut the current list of controlled goods and technology by as much as 50 percent. The stated purpose of this exercise is to construct a "bare-bones" Core List of proscribed items.

The U.S. export liberalization proposal is being considered in COCOM’s meetings in Paris (1-15 October) along with even more draconian revisions of the present regime advanced by other member countries. The resulting recommendations for abandoning current controls are likely finalized in another COCOM round in November and are expected to take effect on 1 January 1991.

Among those items reportedly slated for decontrol are sensors capable of testing missile silos, high-speed microprocessors with a wide variety of applications for military systems, solid and liquid rocket motors and spacecraft, advanced lasers, electronic navigation equipment, and sophisticated machine tools.

"Many in the Bush Administration are beginning to have second thoughts over the ‘presumed innocence’ of export decontrol decisions agreed to by COCOM just four months ago — and well they should, in light of the consequences these decisions have had on Saddam Hussein’s technology acquisition program," said Frank J. Gaffney, director of the Center. "After all, it is now clear that those decontrol actions are contributing directly to Iraq’s ballistic missile, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs."

Administration officials testifying recently in hearings convened by the Joint Economic Committee and the House Government Operations Committee have conceded that insufficient attention has been given to the implications of East-West technology decontrol decisions for weapons proliferation from North to South. Those hearings further underscored continuing problems with interagency coordination problems — problems that are resulting in dubious export license approvals and serious shortfalls in allied cooperation on controlling technologies related to missile, chemical and biological weapons production and delivery.

Gaffney added, "Ironically, as the technology decontrol train hurtles run-away down the track, its engine — Germany — is increasingly recognized as one of the worst violators of sound technology security policies. It is no accident that a nation with scores of companies under investigation for sales of equipment and know-how directly relevant to weaponry of mass destruction is the preeminent champion of the pending, wholesale gutting of export controls."

The Center for Security Policy believes that it is incumbent on the Bush Administration to "stand-down" on further weakening of the U.S. and multilateral export control regime pending a complete reassessment of the present policy approach and rampant mismanagement of licensing decisions. At the very least, before additional damage is done to Western technology and security interests, the executive branch and Congress must also get to the bottom of past German and other transgressions against the existing regime.

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