Rescuing National Security
Friday, June 11, 1999
Commentary section Kenneth R.
[Timmerman is a former aide to Congressman Tom Lantos (D,CA), and is a Contributing Editor to Reader's Digest]
The White House has been spinning the Cox Report into a Department of Energy scandal, in a desperate
attempt to spread the blame to previous administrations for loose security procedures at our national nuclear
While this selective reading of the Cox report is convenient, it sweeps under the rug the report's most
devastating conclusion: the total destruction of our national security export control system by President
Clinton and his administration. "The broader and more damaging issue is the wholesale auctioning of
sensitive American technology to the highest bidder," says Congressman Curt Weldon, one of five
Republicans who sat on Committee.
With the help of U.S. technologies approved for export since 1993 by the Clinton administration, China has
been able to improve its existing fleet of ICBMs and move forward deployment of its next generation DF-31
and DF-41 by at least five years, putting at risk American cities and America's children. This is because
China learned the secrets of reliable solid fuel rockets from American companies, and was able to design them
using U.S.-built supercomputers, licensed for sale by the Clinton administration.
The report demonstrates that U.S. technology approved for export to China by the Clinton administration has
helped the Chinese military build a new encrypted communications network, improving its command and
control. And by welcoming large Chinese military delegations to our military exercises in the Pacific, the
U.S. has shown the Chinese how to exploit this technology to their advantage on the battlefield.
These are but a few examples. The upshot is that this administration has helped arm communist China at a
time when China's hostile intentions are becoming increasingly clear. While we cannot know whether China will be our enemy in ten of
fifteen years from now, hostile statements by the Chinese military, and more recently by China's political leadership, provide no reassurance
that China will be our friend. Bill Clinton flipped a coin and bet on China's friendship. That is no way to protect and uphold our national
interests, as the Constitution requires. Quick fixes at the Energy Department will not suffice to correct the damage. Instead, we need to
reconstruct a system of national security export controls to prevent any further leakage of advanced Western technologies to the Chinese
military. To do so, Congress should step up to the plate.
1) The Commerce Department's Bureau of Export Control should be abolished.
One of the many astonishing revelations of the Cox report is the admission by Gene Christiansen, a Bureau of Export Control (BXA)
licensing officer, that he gave Hughes approval to provide technical data to the Chinese that would improve the reliability of their Long March
space launch rockets, knowing it was illegal to do so. Mr. Christiansen's error was not an isolated incident. In fact, he was the licensing
officer in many other China cases under review by the Cox Committee for potential damage to U.S. national security. If such a gross violation
of law had occurred in any other administration, Mr. Christiansen would have been hauled before Congress, threatened with prosecution, and
his bosses fired. Instead, all of them remain at their jobs.
Because the overriding reason we maintain export controls is to protect our national defense, this job should be transferred to the Pentagon's
Defense Technology Security Agency (DTSA), which should be upgraded to become an independent agency.
2) Congress should immediately launch consultations with our allies to revive COCOM.
Under Section 8 of Article 1 of the Constitution, it is the responsibility of Congress - not the Executive Branch - to regulate Commerce with
foreign nations. The Clinton administration violated the Constitutional separation of powers when it single-handedly abolished the
Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls on April 1, 1994.
Congress should reappoint all nine members of the Cox Commission and send them as a negotiating team to Europe, Russia, Japan, and
Israel, in view of creating a new COCOM. They will be surprised at the sense of relief they discover in our allies once they see that we have
finally come to our senses and are serious about preventing the flow of military technologies to the Chinese People's Liberation Army.
Congress should be sure to include in the new COCOM the Asian Tigers, who are all major re-exporters of U.S. technologies. Our Asian
allies have a compelling reason to cooperate with a rigorous and honest export control regime, given the fact that they will be on the receiving
end of any eventual Chinese military expansion. Congress does not need the administration's concurrence, let alone its approval, to take these
3) Finally, the U.S. must deploy vigorous national missile defenses, and share this technology with our Asian allies.
The administration argues that the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972 is the "bedrock" of international stability. But as that Treaty's architect,
Dr. Henry Kissinger, told Congress on May 26, the ABM Treaty was devised in a different time and has become not merely irrelevant, but
dangerous. These steps are not aimed at "containing" China, as the administration contends. Nor are they aimed at launching a new Cold
War. They are aimed at defending our national interests, which is the sovereign right of all peoples. China will find us a far more predictable
partner when they understand where we draw the line. This in turn will encourage the Chinese to be more responsible.