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Industry Backgrounders: Dual-Use Technologies

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Partners in Prevention Industry Backgrounders

Dual-Use Technologies


As the threat of technology diversion to potential proliferators has grown over time, many governments, most often led by advanced industrialized states, have built regulatory barriers in response. Many dual-use industry representatives report that their relationships with governments, particularly the USG, have eroded significantly over the past two decades as regulations have grown, and as some formal and informal mechanisms for information-sharing have been replaced with more rigid regulatory structures. Outdated or misdirected regulations have in some cases created uneven international competition and fomented troubled relations between government and industry.

Furthermore, the commercial objectives of US industry frequently are hindered by the anachronistic 1979 Export Enforcement Act and a byzantine licensing approval process. Rather than comprehensively updating the 1979 Act, US government agencies, joined by legislators on Capitol Hill, have imposed arduous and expensive requirements on industry in a piecemeal fashion, further exacerbating industry’s enduring challenge with compliance. Systematic efforts to reform export control guidelines routinely have failed to gain political traction, leading to a layering of additional new regulations without the clearing of outdated and overly onerous controls. Thus, the dual-use technology sector has become a poster-child for an intensely regulated industry in the United States, in which the benefits of compliance are perceived to disproportionally favor national security considerations over industry objectives.

Unfortunately, to date the nonproliferation community has not focused sufficient attention on quantifying the scope of the challenge and identifying industry’s potential role in providing workable solutions that go beyond more intrusive state regulations. Partners in Prevention aims to help develop an environment where industry is playing a more responsible role in the eyes of government regulators, and feels sufficiently rewarded for doing so.

One logical entrée into a more mutually beneficial co-existence is the identification of illicit procurement networks. The US government certainly receives some information on items for which licenses are requested or supplied, but this is far from the full extent of what industry could be reporting to authorities. In some cases, useful information is merely discarded, rather than being funneled to relevant government actors. By establishing a mechanism whereby legitimate actors could safely share this information, without fear of reprisal, institutionalized collection and analysis of such information could lead to the identification and disruption of global proliferation networks. Should industry feel sufficiently incentivized to share such data, and governments sufficiently assured that business actors are operating in the best interest of the state, a new platform for cooperation could yield an environment in which more challenging export control questions can ultimately be addressed.

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Related Links

1979 Export Enforcement Act

Export Regulations

Export Enforcement Program

Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies

US Export Control and Licenses


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