Export bill considered by Senate committee

Computer industry representatives told a U.S. Senate committee on Wednesday that they support the latest version of a Senate export control bill, but they said other legislative changes would be needed in order for the computer industry to take full advantage of the new law.

The goal of the Export Administration Act of 2001, a version of a similar bill that passed the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee last year but failed to make it to the Senate floor, is to build a higher wall around fewer U.S. technology products, said Sen. Phil Gramm, a Republican from Texas and chairman of the committee. U.S. export policy has historically been aimed at keeping fast, powerful computers and other high technology out of the hands of potential enemies and terrorists.

A key provision of the Export Administration Act would implement national security controls that give the president, the secretary of commerce and the secretary of defense the power to review the National Security Control List and determine whether an item can and should be controlled. The provision is designed to give the administration authority and flexibility needed to implement up-to-date and effective export controls.

Dan Hoydysh, co-chairman of the Computer Coalition for Responsible Exports (CCRE), told the committee the bill is going in the right direction, but he urged the committee to take another step and repeal the provisions of the Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which Hoydysh said is seriously undermining computer exports.

The NDAA imposes mandatory, rigid controls of high-performance computer exports by requiring the president to use MTOPS (millions of theoretical operations per second) to measure computer power, Hoydysh said.

"This language must be repealed in order for the Export Administration Act to apply to the computer industry," Hoydysh told the committee. While the proposed act empowers the president to determine what items should be controlled, the NDAA language would effectively exclude computer hardware from the process, Hoydysh added.

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