Michèle Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense, writes today in the Wall Street Journal in favor of export law reform in an op-ed piece (subscription required) titled “Want to Export an F-16 Fighter Jet?” Probably a better title would have been “Want to Export F-16 Fighter Jet Parts?” since that’s what her whole piece is about.
In her op-ed, she says
Over the past six decades, Washington has developed a system that applies one-size-fits-all bureaucratic requirements to defense exports. The system is plagued by maddeningly lethargic timetables for approving technology transfers. It handles airplane windshield wipers essentially the same way it handles air-to-air missiles. It forces American companies and foreign partner militaries to await separate approvals for every latch, wire and lug nut on an F-16 fighter jet—even though the U.S. government has already approved the export of the whole aircraft.
Although I see what Ms. Flournoy is trying to get at, she hasn’t said it very accurately at all. For starters, not every latch, wire and lug nut on an F-16 requires separate export approvals when shipped separately from an F-16. Parts that are not “specifically designed and modified” for military or civil aircraft don’t require separate export approval. If an item is usable on both civil and military aircraft but is standard and integral equipment covered by a civilian aircraft type certificate it is controlled by Department of Commerce regulations, which means it will not require a license for exports to most destinations. And not to be too picky but Ms. Flournoy’s point also ignores the exemption in section 123.16(b)(2) of the ITAR for exports of low value parts to a previously approved end user.
This is not to say that there is not room for reform in how the U.S. government handles exports of aircraft parts; it’s only to say that not every latch, wire and lug nut requires a license right now.
*One, but the lug nut really has to want to be exported.