Frank Gaffney Jr.
When the final net assessment
is performed on the immense harm done to U.S. national security by the
Clinton-Gore administration, the cause of the most grievous, long-term
damage may come as a surprise: The most serious and enduring harm may prove
to have resulted from the systematic, purposeful and wholesale dismantling
of U.S. export-control mechanisms and multilateral arrangements that until
1992 governed the transfer of militarily-relevant or "dual use" technologies.
The question that is now arising is whether
this evisceration of U.S. export controls will be attributable solely to
Clinton administration machinations? Or will certain Republican lawmakers
even some with conservative credentials now looking to captains of industry
for campaign contributions give invaluable political cover to Al Gore with
respect to one of his greatest vulnerabilities?
As things stand now, the vice president is
fully and uniquely implicated in the practice of giving priority to politically
influential companies' desire for short-term profits in overseas markets,
without regard for the larger national interest. This practice has jeopardized
the U.S. military's qualitative edge the access to superior technology
that allows U.S. armed forces to fight and prevail even when substantially
In addition, as successive reports performed
or commissioned by Congress (notably, those produced over the past two
years by the House select committee chaired by Rep. Chris Cox and blue-ribbon
panels chaired by former Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld and former CIA
Director John Deutch) have documented, eased access to sophisticated U.S.
equipment and know-how is giving rise to unprecedented new threats to national
security from developing nations and even subnational groups.
Given this record, it is stupefying that the
Senate is expected this week to consider legislation that would greatly
compound this problem. Were this bill the Export Administration Act (EAA)
(S.1712) actually to pass unchanged, moreover, the Republican-led Congress
would become fully implicated in what is, arguably, the Clinton-Gore administration's
most reprehensible act of purposeful malfeasance.
It is noteworthy that this legislation is being
brought to the Senate floor over the strenuous objections of all four authorizing
committees with jurisdiction over national security matters: the Senate
Armed Services, Foreign Relations, Intelligence and Governmental Affairs
committees. As recently as Feb. 29, the chairmen of these four committees
(Republican Sens. John Warner of Virginia, Jesse Helms of North Carolina,
Richard Shelby of Alabama and Fred Thompson of Tennessee, respectively),
together with six other influential committee or subcommittee chairmen
(Republican Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona, Pat Roberts of Kansas, James M. Inhofe
of Oklahoma, Robert C. Smith of New Hampshire, Connie Mack of Florida and
Orrin Hatch of Utah), wrote Majority Leader Trent Lott warning that "S.1712
fails to protect U.S. national security interests" and opposing consideration
of the EAA "at this time."
The reasons for such opposition are not hard
to divine. This legislation is designed to make it exceedingly difficult
if not, as a practical matter, impossible to impose export controls
on strategically sensitive technologies. Months of behind-the-scenes negotiations
by these legislators and their staff with the EAA's proponents, primarily
Texas Republican Sen. Phil Gramm's Banking Committee, have to date left
such serious problems as the following uncorrected:
* S.1712 would confirm in law the Clinton practice
of precluding executive branch agencies responsible for national security
from exercising real influence over the export control process. For instance,
the Commerce Department will have, for all intents and purposes, sole authority
over which technologies are subjected to high-tech transfer restrictions.
The bill would also confer on the Banking Committee sole jurisdiction for
areas clearly within the purview of other Senate committees charged with
oversight of the defense, foreign policy and intelligence portfolios.
* The bill unduly restricts the circumstances
under which export controls can be imposed. This is done to such an extent
that the next president may be hamstrung should he believe, unlike the
incumbent, that the transfer of certain dual-use U.S. technology should
be blocked from going to undesirable end-users.
It would, for example, be illegal to do so
if would-be exporters claim that foreign competitors can offer a comparable
product. (Under S.1712, another loophole would be created if the product
is not available overseas but is widely available domestically.) If the
EAA were in force, the president would be prohibited from blocking the
export unless he could establish both that U.S. security would be harmed
and that foreign availability can be eliminated via multilateral controls
in under 18 months neither of which are likely to be demonstrable in
In an important address to the Heritage Foundation
on Friday, one of those most concerned about this defective legislation,
Sen. Thompson, declared: "We need strong, principled leadership from the
president and Congress on these national security matters. We can start
by passing an Export Administration Act that balances trade with national
security as opposed to the current, proposed legislation that would loosen
[export controls] further than has the Clinton administration."
The nation may long suffer the consequences
of the Clinton-Gore team's failure to strike such a balance. It seems equally
certain that neither the "common defense" nor Republican electoral prospects
will be advanced if the Senate disregards the judgment of Mr. Thompson
and its other experts on national security in an effort to outpander the
vice president for the contributions and support of high-tech businesses
determined to sell their wares without regard for the dangers such sales
might entail for the rest of us.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of
the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.