The US Department of Commerce has opened a 60-day comment period for the proposed changes to US Munitions List Category XII rules which govern the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). The rewrite is part of an overarching Export Control Reform (ECR) initiative undertaken by the Obama Administration.
Category XII covers many of the optics and photonics commodities and components controlled under ITAR. The comment process is seen as the best opportunity for exporters, manufacturers, and researchers to influence revisions in regulations that control photonics exports.
‘Most of the other categories have already been addressed, but the Administration has saved Category XII for last due to its complexity and importance to both industry and the military,’ said Jennifer Douris, a lobbyist for SPIE and a member of the Sensors and Instrumentation Technical Advisory Committee (SITAC) of the Bureau of Industry and Security in the USDC.
In an article for Electro Optics, Douris commented: ‘Industry is greatly concerned that the proposal for Category XII will not reflect the need for reform that is called for by the current economic environment.’
The optics and photonics society, SPIE, has hosted briefings at SPIE Photonics West in San Francisco and SPIE DSS in Baltimore to review with community members the proposed changes in detail, including implications for manufacturers, exporters, and research universities. In addition, SPIE will host a webinar on 12 May on the proposed changes to Category XII and giving guidance on commenting.
The ECR initiative was launched in 2009 with the expressed purpose of building higher walls around fewer items, Douris explained. ‘The reasoning behind this was to allow for better protection of what the military would consider to be its “crown jewels” while recognising the economic realities that are important to industry. This approach is meant to strengthen our national security, while improving the competitiveness of US businesses.’
‘I believe that the ECR revisions to Category XII must allow for future growth of the photonics and optics industry while protecting technologies especially designed for the military,’ said Jim McNally, chair of the SPIE Engineering, Science, and Technology Policy (ESTeP) committee. ‘Many of the commodities and components controlled by the USML might more appropriately be placed on the Commerce Control List. The reforms will have a direct and lasting impact on industry and our academic community. I urge all parties to participate in the comment period.’
ITAR under attack - Will reforms to the ITAR lists that control US exports of defence-related technologies make it easier for US companies to export? Greg Blackman investigates