Senate passes export control bill

The US Senate has passed a bill that will revamp the way exports of computer equipment are controlled.

The US Senate has passed a bill that will revamp the way exports of computer equipment are controlled.

The Senate passed S149, the Export Administration Act (EAA) of 2001, by a vote of 85-14. The legislation establishes new rules that are intended to allow US technology companies to remain leaders in the global marketplace while protecting national security interests.

The Senate version of the bill repeals language contained in the 1997 National Defense Authorization Act, which requires the president to adhere to a specific standard - a millions of theoretical operations per second (MTOPS) performance rating - when establishing export levels for computers.

Under the Senate bill, the White House would be able to determine whether export of individual products can and should be controlled. Scrapping the MTOPS provision would also give the president discretion when establishing export controls for computers.

US computer vendors had been lobbying legislators to cut the MTOPS criteria from the bill so that American companies can better compete with firms based in other countries. They argue that non-US firms often benefit from less stringent export control regimes.

"The president now has the discretion to work with developers and all interested parties to [establish] an export control system for computers," said Dan Hoydysh, a Unisys executive and co-chairman of the Washington-based Computer Coalition for Responsible Exports (CCRE), an alliance of 16 US computer companies and IT associations.

A similar bill is awaiting approval from the House Armed Services Committee in the US House of Representatives. However, the CCRE doesn't support the House bill because it includes amendments, added by the House International Relations Committee, that it claims would create complicated and unnecessary procedures.

Hoydysh said that although the House version of the bill would also scrap MTOPS, the CCRE would like to see the Senate version passed in the House.

If the House bill is also passed, differences between the two bills will have to be reconciled by a House/Senate conference committee.

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