Washington and London issued a joint statement on defense export controls January 17, marking progress in negotiations on revising British export controls to better mirror U.S. controls. In return for the revisions, the United States is expected to exempt from U.S. export licensing requirements select British companies that are seeking unclassified arms and technology.
According to the joint statement, the two governments have "reached substantial agreement in principle." However, two key issues remain unresolved: U.S. efforts to have the United Kingdom place controls on dual-use equipment and technology transfers that are not currently controlled by the European Union, of which Britain is a member, and U.S. demands that London not re-export U.S.-origin arms and technology without its consent.
While not formally suspended, the negotiations are on hold until the Bush administration completes its staffing of the State Department, which is leading the U.S. side in the talks.
The negotiations flow from the May 2000 Defense Trade Security Initiative (DTSI), initiated by the Pentagon to "reform" what it contends is an inefficient arms export control system. DTSI is comprised of 17 initiatives aimed at speeding up and easing the U.S. export control process for close U.S. allies. When unveiled, the Clinton administration contended DTSI would enhance interoperability between U.S. and allied militaries, reduce the disparity between U.S. and allied military capabilities, foster increased allied defense cooperation, and allow Pentagon license reviewers to devote greater attention to higher-risk export requests.However, a General Accounting Office (GAO) report released last fall alleged that, when formulating the 17 initiatives, the Pentagon "largely relied on incomplete data and did not perform the analysis necessary to determine the underlying causes for problems it identified." GAO charged that the Pentagon based some initiatives on anecdotal evidence provided by foreign governments and U.S. industry without validating their claims, and it concluded that it was "unclear" whether the initiatives would achieve their stated objectives. The Pentagon disagreed, responding in an August 16 letter to a preview copy of the report that the initiatives were based on "extensive analysis of many of the problems" and "broad analysis of the pertinent circumstances."