President Bush ordered changes in U.S. export controls that will accelerate the export of militarily sensitive technology and products.

One earlier-announced change already has cut in half the number of export license applications awaiting action at the State Department, the agency stated.

While some members of Congress are concerned that the United States may be exporting products with militarily useful technology to nations such as China, and to rogue nations, the administration argues that the accelerated tech exports can be accomplished without compromising national security interests.

One change would require action on each export license application within 60 days absent strong reasons otherwise.

“Although license processing times will be reduced as a result of this directive, the administration is committed to ensuring that existing measures to prevent the diversion of such items to unauthorized recipients” such as terrorists, rogue nations and the like won’t occur, the State Department asserted.

The administration move brought strong endorsements from industry, which has sought an easing of the rules.

Industry groups assert that the rules are unnecessarily burdensome, hampering U.S. corporate sales abroad and thus aiding their overseas competitors.

For example, the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) lauded the administration move.

AIA “welcomes a package of directives from the White House…designed to make the U.S. export control system more predictable, efficient, and transparent,” AIA said in a statement.

AIA and its members have long advocated export control changes to support defense and dual-use trade and technology cooperation, the group noted.

AIA is a founding member of the Coalition for Security and Competitiveness, a collection of industry and trade groups seeking changes in the U.S. export control system.

Similarly, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) also hailed Bush’s move.

NAM President John Engler predicted that the export control changes will strengthen “the global competitiveness of America’s manufacturers.

“In order to efficiently share technology with our allies, the administration is updating a system that had not kept pace with globalization and rapid technological changes,” Engler said. The Bush changes won’t harm national security but will operate “without hampering the ability of high-tech industries to expand exports.

“This has been a top trade priority for the NAM over the past year, one we made a critical part of our agenda and worked extensively with the administration to see through,” he said.

As a founding member of the Coalition for Security and Competitiveness, NAM advocated practical steps to change the system, with Engler visiting top officials at the State Department, Commerce Department and Department of Defense, and the National Security Council.

Last March, the coalition sent 19 recommendations to Bush to make the current system work better for U.S. security and economic interests.

“Our recommendations will enhance the ability of American manufacturers of high technology products to compete in the global marketplace,” according to Engler.

The State Department outlined some of the changes Bush is making in the export control rules:

Additional financial resources and intelligence support will be made available for timely adjudication of defense trade licenses.

Guidelines will be issued that require a decision by the government on defense trade export license applications within 60 days, absent a strong reason for additional time, such as a requirement for congressional notification.

The electronic licensing system will be upgraded to permit submission of all types of defense trade licenses and to enable all agencies to access the same electronic information.

The secretary of state will update U.S. controls on exports involving dual and third country nationals from NATO and other allied countries.

A formal interagency dispute mechanism will be created to allow for timely resolution of licensing jurisdiction issues involving both the departments of state and commerce under the Commodity Jurisdiction (CJ) process. The National Security Council will also undertake a review to make sure the CJ process is efficient and timely.

A multi-agency working group will be established to improve procedures for conducting export enforcement investigations.

The steps Bush ordered ensure that dual-use export control policies and practices support the National Security Strategy while facilitating U.S. economic and technological leadership, according to a Commerce Department statement.

The Bush plan increasingly focuses on those foreign end-users of U.S. high technology products.

This focus will facilitate trade to reliable foreign customers, while denying access to sensitive technologies to proliferators, international terrorists, and other foreign parties acting contrary to U.S. national security and foreign policy interests, the statement continued.

The focus on foreign end-users includes the Validated End User (VEU) program for reliable foreign companies, and imposing additional scrutiny of exports to foreign parties with a record of activities contrary to U.S. foreign policy and national security interests through expansion of the Department of Commerce Entity List, the statement asserted.

One goal of the new system is to ensure that sensitive-technology export curbs aren’t interfering with U.S.-based companies competing in globalized markets.

“Technological and economic competitiveness are key to the U.S.’s long- term national security,” the Commerce Department explanation continued.

“As such, the United States needs to ensure that export controls are constantly reassessed to ensure that the most sensitive items are controlled to sustain U.S. economic competitiveness and innovation.

Therefore, the system includes “a regular process for systematic review of the list of controlled dual-use items (the Commerce Control List), revised controls on intra-company transfers, revised controls on encryption products, and a review of reexport controls,” the department explanation noted.

As well, the Bush plan aims to ensure that U.S. exporters receive sufficient information “to support U.S. security and competitiveness goals,” the statement continued.

The focus on transparency includes publication of advisory opinions on the Department of Commerce website, as well as lists of foreign parties warranting higher scrutiny.

The statement notes that the Bush changes were sought by industry figures. The new rules “are consistent with the recommendations made by a number of industry groups,” the statement noted.

The Administration is committed to working closely with industry to implement these reforms to ensure that dual-use exports are controlled to address emerging security threats while maintaining the economic competitiveness of the United States.

As well, Bush continues to support reauthorization of the Export Administration Act with updated penalties and enhanced law enforcement authority to ensure U.S. dual-use export control policies can be vigorously enforced, according to the statement.