Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

Starting with the UK and Australia, the US Government is to remove controls on defence exports to allies which meet US requirements for common and reciprocal export controls and industrial security.

The move is the "most far-reaching" in a package of export control reforms approved by the Clinton Administration on 23 May and are designed to clear the way for closer military and industrial co-operation between the USA and its allies.

The Defence Trade Security Initiative encompasses 17 measures to streamline the cumbersome, and sometimes irrational and unreliable, US export control process.


"We had to quit sticking our fingers in the eyes of our allies," says deputy undersecretary of defence David Oliver.

The initiative creates new comprehensive export licences that will enable US companies to "establish consistent supply lines" to NATO, Japan and Australia. Licensing will be expedited for items related to NATO's Defence Capabilities Initiative, aimed at closing the "capabilities gap" between US and allied forces.

The export control reforms are expected to improve coalition interoperability and promote industrial co-operation by removing unnecessary barriers to technology transfer. US officials expect the reforms to be welcomed "on both sides of the Atlantic".

The decision to exempt the UK and Australia from export controls is a victory for the US Department of Defense (DoD). The Department of State (DoS), which licenses all defence exports, had opposed extending exemption from the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

The DoD had proposed granting its closest allies a blanket ITAR exemption similar to that enjoyed by Canada. The compromise reached requires a bilateral agreement on technology protection and limits the exemption to selected "trustworthy" companies in the UK and Australia.

A major focus of the reforms is to facilitate industrial collaboration, officials say. Workwill begin with the UK and Australia because of their long-standing defence relationships with the USA. "Other countries are not resentful," says Oliver. "They know it makes sense for us to start with countries we are comfortable with."

The initiative will also allow US companies to combine under a single comprehensive, longer-lasting authorisation the many licences now needed to export a major weapon system. Joint manufacturing agreements, warehousing and distribution of spares and the re-transfer of equipment between allies will be made easier by the pre-approval of a list of end users to which the items can be sold.

US officials describe the initiative as "two-way", as reforms include licensing exemption for the export of technical data and assistance to companies inNATO nations, Australia and Japan to enable them to bid for DoD procurement contracts. UScompanies and approved foreign firms also will be able to exchange data necessary "to explore co-operative ventures".

Licensing requirements for the export of communications satellites parts and data also will be relaxed. For an approved list of satellites, US companies will be able to export components to an approved list of foreign companies without advance approval.

Under the initiative, the DoD and State will review and update the Munitions List - items which require export licences - on a four-year cycle to determine what equipment and technologies should continue to be controlled.

Source: Flight International