The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

April 20, 2010

Fact Sheet on the President's Export Control Reform Initiative

Earlier today, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates discussed the Administration’s interagency review of the U.S. export control system, which calls for fundamental reform of the current system in order to enhance U.S. national security and strengthen our ability to counter threats such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

President Obama, in August of last year, initiated this comprehensive review to identify possible reforms to the system.  Although the United States has one of the most robust export control systems in the world, it is rooted in the Cold War era and must be updated to address the threats we face today and the changing economic and technological landscape.

The assessment was conducted by an interagency task force created at the direction of the President and included all departments and agencies with roles in export controls.  The assessment found that the current U.S. export control system does not sufficiently reduce national security risk based on the fact that its structure is overly complicated, contains too many redundancies, and tries to protect too much.

The current system is based on two different control lists administered by two different departments, three different primary licensing agencies, none of whom sees the others licenses, a multitude of enforcement agencies with overlapping and duplicative authorities, and a number of separate information technology systems, none of which are accessible to or easily compatible with the other, or agencies with no IT system at all that issues licenses.  The fragmented system, combined with the extensive list of controlled items which resulted in almost 130,000 licenses last year, dilutes our ability to adequately control and protect those key items and technologies that must be protected for our national security.  The goal of the reform effort is “to build high walls around a smaller yard” buy focusing our enforcement efforts on our “crown jewels.”

The review’s overall findings have the full support of the President’s senior national security team. 

Key Recommendations

The Administration has determined that fundamental reform of the U.S. export control system is needed in each of its four component areas, with transformation to a:


The Administration will engage with Congress to consult and seek its input on the proposed reforms.  To deploy the new system, the Administration has prepared a comprehensive, three-phase approach and is currently moving forward to make specific reforms which can be initiated immediately and implemented without legislation.  The approach will make the necessary changes to the current system to transition it to the revised, enhanced system in Phase III:

Source: The White House