It is necessary to ameliorate the policy logjam that is the unintended consequence of Congress’s inaction over dual-use export controls. The new President needs to resolve the long-standing clash between the cabinet departments that are the guardians of national and homeland security interests, broadly defined, and the cabinet departments that are the promoters of national economic interests. It is only at the presidential level that the competing bureaucratic interests of these two areas can be weighed and the current system reformed, so as to stem the decline that so urgently needs attention. This approach is not an attempt to do an “end run” around one of the branches of government, or to short-circuit political debate, but responds to the marked inability of recent Congresses to address this issue.1 In the absence of legislation, the International Economic Emergency Powers Act of 1977 gives authority to the President to structure the regulatory framework of the dual-use export controls system.

An export control system that was last significantly updated in the 1980s cannot provide the framework to deal with today’s security, economic, and technological realities. Congress will eventually succeed in bringing the export control regime into the twenty-first century. But the health of the U.S. scientific and technological enterprise, and the national security imperative to keep abreast of technological developments worldwide, can no longer wait for Congress to overcome the obstacles it has faced in this arena. This report therefore identifies actions that the President can take under existing legislative authority to initiate necessary reforms. Not only will these reforms support economic vitality and promote national security, but they will create a track record and experience base that Congress can evaluate—and modify as it sees fit—at such time as export control legislation can be successfully addressed there.

In the meantime, it will be important to keep Congress apprised of the actions recommended here and their effects, and to maintain a dialogue on the nature of a future package of legislative reforms. In removing the pressure for Congress to take immediate action, the proposals made can facilitate the longer term legislative process.

Restructuring the export control process does not involve abandoning all export controls. Rather, the committee recommends that two policy changes and two structural changes be made in order to retain


See United States Export Controls by William A. Root, John R. Liebman, and Roszel C. Thomsen II, 5th edition. Aspen Publishers, 2007, Chapter 1, pp. 9, 11-12.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement