|A US Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV in flight|
Facing defense budget cuts in the hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade and an increasingly complex world made all the more challenging by the emergence of China as a strategic competitor, the Pentagon is hoping to hit two birds with one stone by exporting more arms abroad — drones, in particular.
Starting last year, the Barack Obama administration launched a wide-ranging program to establish, and in some instances loosen, guidelines on arms exports to foreign countries. Through those efforts, the government hopes to create a comprehensive policy that would unify the two lists of defense-related export items administered separately by the State Department and the Department of Commerce. Defense firms, which could reap huge benefits if exports policies were streamlined and restrictions loosened, patiently await the decisions by Congress and the State Department on the matter.
While the policy makes its way round government, agencies have adopted an interim measure by evaluating whether some of the categories from the Munitions List could be moved to the Commercial List. Although such a move wouldn’t mean that a defense article has become “decontrolled,” it would nevertheless make it easier for the U.S. government to export sensitive weapons systems to close allies.
My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.