On February 12, 2019, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), joined by Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.), introduced legislation to halt the proposed rewrite of U.S. Munitions List (USML) Categories I, II, and III. The text of the legislation is not yet available for review, but the text of the bill (S.459)should be accessible shortly through the Library of Congress on www.congress.gov.
In a press release the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations issued yesterday, the proposed Stopping the Traffic in Overseas Proliferation of Ghost Guns Act would:
- “Prohibit the transfer of small arms/light weapons, and the technical manufacturing information related to them (including 3D Printed guns), to the Department of Commerce;
- Maintain the statutory restriction on publishing 3D Printing gun information, including via the Internet;
- Prohibit the ability of the State Department to suspend the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations without 30-day prior notice to Congress.”
Similar legislation appears to also have been introduced in the House (H.R.1134) to amend the Arms Export Control Act to prohibit the removal of certain items under category I, II, or III of the United States Munitions List. So far, the House bill has six cosponsors, all Democrats, from the states of New York, Rhode Island, Florida, Illinois, California and Massachusetts.
As we have covered extensively in our previous alerts on the transition rules, the proposed rewrite of USML Categories I, II, and III would revise the scope of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) to control only those articles that provide the United States with a critical military or intelligence advantage or, in the case of weapons, are inherently for military end use. Such items will remain on the USML, while items no longer warranting control under the ITAR will be transitioned to the Commerce Control List and be subject to the licensing provisions of the Export Administration Act, administered and enforced by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security.
As many of you already know, USML Categories I, II, and III are the last USML categories to actually go through the revision process, although they were among the first categories the Obama Administration drafted for transition back when Export Control Reform was initially rolled out. All other USML Categories have been officially revised already, some with multiple amendments. And so, it is important to restate in the face of predictable political push back, this is not a decontrol of the items identified for removal from the USML. Rather, it is a right-sizing of U.S. export controls.
We will continue to monitor the progress of this legislation. While it is possible that the House version may pass, it is unlikely the Senate will take it up. However, this serves as a reminder that there is still a “tough row to hoe” for the final Congressional Notification process for the USML Category I, II, and III rewrites.