Interim Proposed ITAR Rule Released Today

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The 45-day comment period for the interim Category XII rule is now open. SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, is hosting an informational webinar on the rule, which governs many of the optics and photonics commodities covered by International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

The changes will have direct and lasting impact on industry and our academic community.

The comment period was opened today on newly proposed U.S. export regulations covering a wide range of key photonics areas.

To help the community better understand the proposed changes, SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, will host a webinar on Wednesday 2 March from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. To register for the webinar, click here.

The informational webinar will explain proposed changes to U.S. Munitions List (USML) Category XII, which governs many of the optics and photonics commodities covered by International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Information will include detail as to how these proposed changes differ from both the proposed regulation changes released for comment in May 2015, and the current Category XII regulations.

The rewrite of Category XII is part of the overarching Export Control Reform (ECR) initiative undertaken by the Administration.

“The changes will have direct and lasting impact on industry and our academic community,” said Eugene Arthurs, CEO of SPIE. “Our industry is often described as fragmented because of the myriad of small- and medium-sized enterprises with unique expertise serving niches that are extraordinarily deep technically. The overhead burden for export control compliance is a challenge to these businesses, and to university research laboratories where covered products are used or developed. Well written regulations, that are limited to our highest priorities for control, are key to reducing that burden.”

Historically, he said, the U.S. export control system has fostered an environment where non-U.S. companies with similar products are selling freely, and using the motto "ITAR-Free" to do so.

“These companies are prudently investing the resulting revenue back into their companies, enabling rapid growth" Arthurs noted. "This scenario comes at the detriment of the U.S. industry's growth and the high-paying jobs that come with it. More work will always be needed as our industry constantly changes and grows, but it is our hope at SPIE that a final rule will lead U.S. export controls in a more positive direction.”

In May 2015, the administration released the first proposed changes to Category XII. SPIE, along with many others in the optics and photonics industry, had concerns with the direction of this proposal, as well as the potential of long-term negative impact on the industry as a whole.

During the comment period on the May proposal, 120 companies, associations, and universities submitted statements to the Department of State detailing why the proposal was a step back in efforts to reform the system in a positive way — the largest response to any one category in the ECR process.

The second proposed rule, released today and referred to as an interim rule, is seen as a vast improvement from the previous proposal.

“The interim rule utilizes the ‘specially designed’ criteria in many areas, which was a request from industry and SPIE. The ‘specially designed’ criteria, which is a formal review process finalized in 2012, helps ensure that dual-use technologies are not considered munitions items,” explained Jennifer Douris, Government Affairs Director for SPIE.

Though today’s proposed rule is a significant improvement from the previous proposal, companies and universities should still review the proposals carefully for potential impacts, Douris said. This includes the Department of Commerce rule, which establishes controls for items moving from the USML to the Commerce Control List (CCL).

“Over-control on any level would put American companies at a competitive disadvantage,” said Jim McNally, chair of the SPIE committee on Engineering, Science, and Technology Policy and Director of Strategic Development at ATA Corporation. “It is important that U.S. controls do not exceed those placed by fellow Wassenaar countries and our EU allies. That disparity costs jobs and revenue for U.S. companies.”

The ECR initiative was launched in 2009 with the expressed purpose of building higher walls around fewer items. The reasoning behind this was to allow for better protection of what the military would consider to be its “crown jewels” while recognizing the economic realities that are important to industry. This approach is meant to strengthen our national security, while improving the competitiveness of U.S. businesses.

The complete announcement regarding the interim proposed rule and comment period can be found in the Federal Register here: and

About SPIE

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, an educational not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based science, engineering, and technology. The Society serves nearly 264,000 constituents from approximately 166 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library. In 2015, SPIE provided more than $5.2 million in support of education and outreach programs.

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