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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 47, June 2000

Senate Debates US Computer Export Restrictions; Lockheed Martin Fined for Export Violation

On June 14, the US State Department announced that the Lockheed Martin Corporation is being fined $13 million - $8 million payable over the next four years; $5 million to be spent by the company on improved security measures and systems - for violations of the Arms Export Control Act surrounding the sale of satellite technology to a Chinese company, AsiaSat, in 1994, and subsequent technical information provided to the company following a failed rocket launch. Despite the fine, Lockheed Martin remains unprepared to concede that it provided information which could have been militarily useful if passed on to the Chinese Government.

Referring to the $5 million funding for remedial measure, State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher noted (June 14): "Lockheed Martin has eight months to build a computer system…including [a system covering] all of the company's overseas activities involving missiles and space that are subject to regulation…" The same day, James Fetig, speaking for the Corporation, stated: "We are committed to full compliance with all export control measures and believe this agreement will allow us to assure the State Department that we will meet all our export control obligations. This settlement is in recognition of the Government's concerns about protecting national security through strict regulatory controls…"

On May 26, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee met to consider the merits of relaxing restrictions on the export of high-speed computers under the Export Administration Act currently being reauthorized by Congress (Bill S. 1712). In January 2000, President Clinton issued a ruling under the terms of the Act removing the requirement for an export license on computers up to 12,500 millions of theoretical operations per second (MTOPS); the previous ceiling was 6,500 MTOPS. The ruling will take effect in August, following a 180-day Congressional review period which the Administration would like to see reduced to 30 days. Such relaxation was criticised at the Committee hearing by a number of non-proliferation experts, including Gary Milhollin, Director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, who stressed the wider impact of the standards set by the US: "Unless you are willing to be clear with your own behaviour, you're not going to get anywhere with anyone else…"

Note: on June 15, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that a US request to increase its supervision of Israeli weapons exports had been turned down. Few details were given, and no official comment from the US or Israel was forthcoming. Washington has, however, expressed its disapproval of Israel's commitment to sell China between one and four aircraft equipped with the PHALCON early-warning system.

Reports: Senate panel weighs computer exports, Associated Press, May 26; Lockheed Martin settles Fed lawsuit, Associated Press, June 14; Lockheed to pay $8 million for China violations, Reuters, June 14; Israel resists US supervision, Associated Press, June 15.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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