substantial results, it is doubtful that the institutionalized CoCom and U.S. list review processes could work effectively in less exigent circumstances.
Finally, in the proliferation area, the Zangger Committee meets regularly to update the nuclear trigger list. The Nuclear Suppliers Group, in contrast, has not met since its inception. Updates to the U.S. Nuclear Referral List are made on an ad hoc basis (a comprehensive update was completed in 1989). The annex of the Missile Technology Control Regime also is updated on an ad hoc basis. The annex itself is generic, which leaves the interpretation of actual items to be controlled up to national authorities. This type of national discretion leads to important discrepancies in national control systems, especially for dual use items. Conversely, chemicals that are considered sensitive precursors to chemical weapons are specifically identified by the Australia Group on a regular basis.
The process for dispute resolution is characterized by a lack of transparency resulting from unclear policy guidelines and complicated agency responsibilities. In considering whether to allow certain shipments, agencies disagree on levels of technology and the necessary conditions of sale. Agencies also disagree on the criteria for control or decontrol of list items and the interpretation of statutory guidelines for list review. For example, a foreign availability assessment for semiconductor wire bonders was begun in 1985, and decontrol was recommended, and approved by the President, in 1987. Despite the President's decision, negotiations with the foreign source to control the export of wire bonders were undertaken in 1988. The source country declined to cooperate based on the argument that the item was not strategically critical and was available in the Soviet Union and East Germany. Action was still blocked into 1990 by bitter interagency dissension. Similarly, in discussions in 1989 on whether to decontrol personal computer technology to the Soviet Union, the Commerce and Defense Departments sharply disputed almost every element of the congressionally stated criteria for determining foreign availability. The number of personal computers necessary to meet Warsaw Pact military needs and thereby satisfy the "available in sufficient quantity to render U.S. controls ineffective" criterion is a matter of subjective judgment, not established fact. The other foreign availability criteria are also subject to interpretation and therefore ripe for interagency dispute. Yet, no working mechanism exists for resolving these disputes.
The interagency procedure for resolving disputes on license decisions is confusing to industry and often takes too long for businesses to plan effectively. If an important dispute does reach as high as the under secretary level of review, the arguments for or against a case are frequently very technical