(Bill nearer administration view than one in House)  (590)

By Bruce Odessey

USIA Staff Writer

Washington -- A Senate committee has approved an export-control bill much

more to the liking of the Clinton administration than a version advanced in

the House of Representatives, especially on the encryption software issue.

The Senate Banking Committee May 24 approved 19-0 a bill revising the Export

Administration Act (EAA) and extending it from expiration of the current

EAA on June 30, 1994.

The committee approved an amendment worked out with the National Security

Agency (NSA) requiring only an administration report to Congress assessing

how U.S. export controls on computer software with encryption capability

affect U.S. international competitiveness.

In contrast, the bill approved by the House of Representatives Foreign

Affairs Committee would allow exports of "generally available" encryption

software as long as the intended use is civilian.

The NSA opposes the House bill while U.S. industry supports it, arguing that

such encryption products are already widely available from competing

non-U.S. suppliers.

Passage of each bill respectively by the full House or full Senate is

required before a House-Senate conference could meet to work out

differences in the legislation.

In addition, the House Intelligence Committee, concerned about encryption

and other issues, also has claimed authority to make changes to the Foreign

Affairs Committee bill.

"The Senate bill is much closer to what the president has proposed," William

Reinsch, under secretary of commerce, told reporters.

The encryption issue is his biggest concern; all other issues seem capable

of resolution, he said.

Both the House and Senate bills cover products useful in both civilian and

military applications, but not weapons themselves, which are covered by

another law.

Both bills would give the president broad authority to impose export

controls linked to U.S. participation in multilateral non-proliferation

regimes like the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Nuclear Suppliers

Group, the Australia Group (for biological and chemical weapons) and any

successor regime to the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export

Controls (COCOM), which went out of existence in March after 45 years.

While the House bill would sharply restrict the president's authority to

impose unilateral controls, the Senate bill has no comparable provision,

1ut  would require removal of obsolete items from the export-control list


Both bills would allow unilateral controls on exports to

terrorist-supporting countries like Iran, Iraq, Libya and North Korea.

The Senate bill would reduce the existing 120-day deadline for U.S.

government decisions on export applications to 60 days while the House bill

would reduce it to 30 days.

The Senate bill also would give the Defense Department more influence over

such decisions than would the House bill.

A controversy could emerge over amendments expected to be offered in both

the House and Senate for restricting exports of satellites for launch in

China or Russia if those countries provide the service at less than fair


U.S. oil companies and Alaska's delegation to Congress are likely to oppose

provisions in both the House and Senate bills extending existing law

prohibiting exports of oil from Alaska's North Slope.

The Senate bill would authorize sanctions against foreign companies that

undermine any U.S. export controls; the House bill would authorize

sanctions against foreign persons who assist nuclear proliferation.

Because the existing EAA expires June 30, the administration is seeking

quick action from Congress.  No votes have yet been scheduled for the floor

of the House or the Senate.