It is a pleasure for me, once again, to be able to speak to an Update Conference. My first day at BXA was the first day of Update 1998, and I concluded then and still believe that it was a superb beginning point for my work here.
I consider it a privilege to have been able to be a part for the past two years of the BXA history that Bill Reinsch recalled in his remarks. It is a history that has been marked by vigorous pursuit of our national interests as the global situation has changed from year to year -- sometimes even from day to day -- like a kaleidoscope. As Bill noted, BXA has been on the sharp and sometimes painful edge of the most profound political change of the past half century, as our nation has sought to adjust its national security agenda and foreign policy to the implosion of the former Soviet Union, adjustments that inescapably directly affect and involve export control policy and practice.
In the widespread euphoria that followed the opening and subsequent destruction of the Iron Curtain, and the sweeping political and social change in what had been the Soviet Union, some hoped our national security needs would evaporate, or, at the very least, contract dramatically. However, it soon became apparent to most that those needs, rather than evaporating, had simply metamorphosed.
While the Cold War was frightfully expensive in several dimensions, it had the virtue of philosophical simplicity. We knew the nature and the source of the threat to our security, and we knew how to focus on that threat. Surely that was true in the field of export controls. The equally ominous threats to our national and global security today are, instead, multifaceted. They emanate from many sources. And they are hardly standing still; some of them continuously change -- often at stunning speed. Increasingly, too, the instruments that pose the greatest potential threats to us and our well-being can also be used to produce amazing good.
This points directly toward something else to which Bill alluded in his remarks: the hallmark of the new threats often is ambiguity.
In essence, something which is ambiguous will not be effectively countered by rigid policies and practices. Effectively confronting and combating ambiguous threats requires flexibility -- flexibility of sight and judgment in order to properly discern and determine what does constitute a threat and what does not, and flexibility of response.
However, flexibility may not be the attribute that first comes to mind when one thinks of the U.S. government -- and both the legislative and executive branches have struggled with the new challenges, how to define them, how to respond to them. BXA has struggled with that portion of the landscape which is within its purview. Bill, Roger, and Amanda, all of whom have been in their positions longer than I have been in mine, spoke with consequent authority about some of the successes BXA has realized, and for which they and the capable and dedicated BXA staff justly deserve great credit, as do you from industry who have labored in pursuit of the same objectives.
None of us should conclude that we're now on the downhill run with easy sledding before us. We had best recognize that, as long as we exist in a world of multiple, ambiguous threats, the task of defining the point at which the road to economic security departs from the road to national security will be a philosophical and political battleground. The process of determining whether our foreign policy will be based primarily on rewarding those whose actions we support and punishing those whose actions we abhor, or based primarily on seeking our objectives through engagement rather than alienation -- or, more complex yet, pursuing the former in some situations and the latter in others -- will also be a battleground. On this dual axis battleground, export control policy is located at the center of the intersection of the axes.
Export control policy will be -- entirely legitimately -- a topic for debate and scrutiny by those who understand that its nature can dramatically affect both our economic and our security interests, and, who even more perceptively, recognize that each is an intrinsic part of the other. Export control policy also, however, will be seized on by those whose purpose is considerably less heroic and patriotic -- those whose principal interest is scoring political points and cutting down political enemies, and who see a hot button topic like export control policy as an effective weapon with which to inflict political injury.
We can be assured that the final chapter won't soon be written, and that the debates will rage on. It will continue to be our mission to bring the greatest wisdom and the best judgment we can muster to the task of drawing and then enforcing the fine line. We must be prepared to confront the ambiguities every day. It's a challenge worthy of good people and good minds.
There is an aspect of the challenge we face, however, that I believe is not ambiguous at all. In our new post-Cold War, multipolar world, even the globe's sole remaining superpower does not possess the capacity to arrange global affairs entirely to its liking -- certainly not if we are subscribing in international affairs to the principles of democracy and self-determination that are so precious to us here in the United States. Regardless of the wishes of some -- and the delusional belief of others -- to the contrary, unilateralism has only one sure destiny in our world today, and that is failure.
Nowhere should that be more clearly evident than in the realm of international economic regulation. Our democracy may conclude, from time to time, that there are good and compelling reasons to impose unilateral sanctions on another nation, but the clear-headed among us should know that among those good and compelling reasons will not be effectiveness. The same holds true for export controls.
If we believe our national security and foreign policy interests will best be served by imposing export controls on shipments to, or by limiting economic interaction with, one or more countries, and our objective is effectiveness of those controls and limitations, plenty of recent history of which current policy makers should be well aware aptly demonstrates that objective will be met only with multilateral cooperation.
That strongly suggests the imperative of a particular international agenda for our nation, one that directly addresses areas critical to BXA. Necessarily, of course, what affects BXA will in some form or fashion affect exporters. Let me describe two of these.
First, we must increase and enhance the quality of the resources we invest in efforts to strengthen and make more effective the multilateral export control regimes. The first step is to persuade more nations, particularly those with high technology capability, that this is in their best interest as well as our own. The second step is to work with those who hold or can be brought to similar views to secure changes to the regimes to make them more effective in stopping the international transfer of those commodities and technologies that pose a real risk.
We must engage in this effort knowing that, if we are to have any hope of broad success, we must be flexible with respect to our objectives and the means of achieving them. We must propose the best ideas we can devise, and pursue them energetically, to be sure. But in the end, we must recognize that no other nation, even in its most honest moments, believes the United States is always right, or that our objectives are always the most appropriate ones. To advance our overall objectives, we must be willing to entertain and embrace reasonable compromises -- which are the products of a flexible approach.
Second, we must recognize that the old, hackneyed cliche that "the chain is only as strong as its weakest link" is, despite the contempt of familiarity, absolutely true in the case of export controls, and we must respond accordingly. No matter how strong, tight, well-designed, and effectively enforced our export controls are in the U.S., and no matter how strong, tight, well-designed, and effectively enforced are the export controls of our key allies, if devastating weapons or the components and means to make them are leaking from other nations and reaching "nations of concern," if you will, or subnational terrorist organizations, our security is threatened, plain and simple. I would go so far as to say that the greatest risk that such materials and technologies will end up in the wrong hands stems not from the likelihood that our domestic export control system will fail, but that the export and transit control systems of one or more of approximately 14 or 15 nations -- generally on the other side of the planet -- will fail (if, in fact, there is something that accurately can be described as an "export and transit control system" in all those countries).
We must expand the circle. We must have partners -- many partners -- and they must be effective, capable partners. And where we need but lack those partners, or where we have willing but incapable partners, we would be catastrophically foolish not to devote the resources required to persuade the doubters, enlist the partners, and help them bring their systems up to acceptable standards. Are there those who dispute the desirability or resist the cost of such activities? If so, I speculate that they have not recently examined the federal budget in detail, and compared the cost of intensive and comprehensive activities of this nature, and the potential effect of such activities on our security and that of the rest of the world, to -- just as an example --the cost and effect of one B-2 bomber.
Of course the United States could just throw up its hands in the face of resistance of various nations to efforts to strengthen multilateral stabilizing and security mechanisms. We in the export control community could throw up our hands in the face of resistance to efforts to focus sufficient resources on enlisting new export control partners and enhancing the capabilities of those who sign up.
But the U.S. did not arrive at its position in the opening years of the 21st Century by throwing up its hands in the face of challenges. And these challenges are far too important to begin doing so with them.
BXA is engaged in working to improve the effectiveness of the multilateral regimes. We need to do more of that, and we need to see more such effort from the State Department and other key U. S. Government actors.
In cooperation with the State Department and other federal agencies, BXA operates an export control international cooperation program that seeks to enlist new partners among key exporting and transit nations, and to assist them in developing their systems and capabilities so that they are effective. We need to do more of that, too, and ensure that BXA's expertise in all the critical export control functions -- the legal and regulatory basis, licensure, enforcement, industry-government relations, and administrative mechanisms and automation -- is most effectively, and sufficiently, deployed in that effort.
And we need the participation of your companies in this effort. Although due to time limitations I will not be able to list those who have permitted their personnel to assist us in those efforts, during 1999, more than a dozen exporting companies did so. They ranged in size from the largest and most profitable in the world to small businesses with only a handful of personnel. I want to publicly thank them for their vision and their contribution, and urge them to continue to play this important role in our efforts to forge a successfully functioning global export and transit control system. And I want to urge others of you to join their number.
I must conclude my remarks in order to keep our program on schedule. Next year, of course, we will experience one of the fundamental rites of our system of government: the peaceful changing of the guard from one Administration to the next. On behalf of all of BXA's career civil servants, let me say that, during the interregnum, and as the new Administration takes its place, we look forward to working with you to maintain the progress that has been made over the past several years, to continue efforts to communicate effectively with public policy makers elsewhere in the Executive Branch and in the Legislative Branch of our government concerning the legal foundation and resources we need to carry out our export control and other missions, and to continue to flexibly address the constantly metamorphosing challenges of export control in the 21st Century.
In April of 2002 the Bureau of Export Administration (BXA)
changed its name to the Bureau of Industry and Security(BIS). For historical
purposes we have not changed the references to BXA in the legacy documents
found in the Archived Press and Public Information.