Power & Security, Technology

Trump admin expected to ease drone export rules Friday

July 24, 2020
By Aaron Mehta and Valerie Insinna | DefenseNews

Perry World House Director Michael Horowitz is quoted in this piece on potential changes to U.S. defense export rules, which would allow the wider sale of drone technology.

White House officials are expected to announce Friday a new interpretation of an export control agreement, which the defense industry hopes will lead to increased sales of military unmanned vehicles abroad, sources tell Defense News.

The move has been expected for several weeks, but no firm timetable had been announced for the change in how the U.S. approaches the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), an agreement among the United States and 34 other nations that governs the sale of missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles...

The expected change, first reported by Reuters in June, would essentially alter how the U.S. government views those systems. Instead of having a “presumption of denial” for those cat-1 UAVs, meaning export officials need special circumstances to allow the sale of the drones, the new guidance would mean those officials would now consider proposed sales using the same criteria they do other military exports...

Michael Horowitz, a professor and director of the Perry World House at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that “Treating uninhabited aircraft as missiles for export policy purposes doesn’t work. It has allowed China to capture a significant chunk of the drone export market, including with U.S. allies and partners.”

Should speed be the deciding factor in the announcement, it would mean “the new policy is a minor repair that does not resolve the underlying issue,” he added. “Uninhabited aircraft are not missiles, so they should not be regulated as missiles. Rather than simply treating uninhabited aircraft as aircraft for export purposes, the new policy creates a speed test that addresses issues for current platforms. Depending on implementation, this could be a policy improvement, but it could also lead to issues down the road as the uninhabited aircraft category evolves.”