How Many Lawyers Does It Take to Export a Lug Nut?*

Posted by at 6:12 pm on March 12, 2013
Category: Arms ExportExport Reform

U.S. Air Force Photo (Public Domain)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.


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Copyright © 2013 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
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As has been pointed out, lug nuts are not the problem. The AECA provides flexibility for determining what is or is not subject to licensing under the ITAR. There is also authority under the AECA/ITAR to do bulk licenses. This has long been the case with the statute. It would have been far simpler to amend the ITAR and adjust the USML to take care of this problem.

Comment by Richard Kessler on March 13th, 2013 @ 10:33 am

Great blog entry. It is interesting to note that within the last week both Ms. Flourney and the White House have referred to fighter jets (and their bolts!) when discussing the ECRI:

Comment by Arthur on March 13th, 2013 @ 11:39 am

123.16(b)(2) A military or defense part valued at under $500? It would probably have to be a very very very small lugnut.

Comment by SF on March 13th, 2013 @ 12:05 pm