Senate to Speed Review of Computer Export Controls

FRAMINGHAM (07/13/2000) - The U.S. Senate yesterday voted 86-11 to reduce from six months to 60 days the time it takes to approve new export controls for high-performance computers. It mirrors a similar vote by the U.S. House of Representatives in May.

The move was hailed by the U.S. computer industry, which has argued for years that controls on the export of high-performance computers are cumbersome, too slow to reflect new technology and, in many cases, unnecessary.

"This is a giant leap forward in the right direction," said Connie Correll, a spokeswoman for the Information Technology Industry Council in Washington.

"It's what we were focusing on getting done this year. Longer term, we will be trying to reform the entire export control system because it doesn't keep pace with technology."

"Most people in industry think the review period doesn't make any sense at all, but 180 days was absolutely ridiculous," said Ed Black, CEO of the Computer & Communications Industry Association in Washington. He called export controls on mass-produced, high-end desktop systems "unnecessary and burdensome."

Supporters of strong export controls include those in Congress who believe that putting powerful processors in the hands of unfriendly states will only aid their development of nuclear weapons and other tools of mass destruction.

Periodically, the administration recommends raising the performance levels beyond which computers may not be freely exported to nations deemed unfriendly to the U.S., such as Iraq and North Korea. Existing law gives Congress 180 days to approve the new limits. The new 60-day review period, which is likely to be signed into law by President Clinton, would make U.S. computer makers more competitive in global markets where foreign computer companies face less stringent export controls.

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