USIS Washington File

18 May 2000

House Passes Provision to Cut Computer Export Review to 60 Days

(Supporters of 30-day review still have a chance) (490)
By Bruce Odessey
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation
that would reduce the period Congress has to review changes in
performance thresholds for controls on exports of high-performance
computers to about 50 countries.

The provision, an amendment to a defense authorization bill, was
passed by a 415-8 vote May 18. It would reduce from 180 to 60 days the
time Congress has to overturn an administration decision raising the
threshold for U.S. exports to a group called Tier III countries, which
includes China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Israel.

The House was scheduled to vote on the underlying bill later in the

The amendment represents a compromise. The computer industry and its
supporters wanted a 30-day review, a position also long held by the
Clinton administration. They argued that 180 days nearly exceeds the
their products' shelf life.

Among the opponents to a 30-day review were Republicans on the House
Armed Services Committee. They had prevailed in 1997 when Congress
passed the existing 180-day requirement; Congress acted following
reports that U.S. advanced computers were diverted to China and

Supporters of a 30-day review could prevail in the Senate. Even in the
House, supporters could still press also for passage of a stand-alone
bill for a 30-day review that was approved 31-0 in April by the House
International Relations Committee.

For any version to become law it must win final passage in the House
and Senate and get the signature of President Clinton.

"We have to recognize that the computer industry in this country is
constantly re-creating itself," Representative David Dreier, the
California Republican who sponsored the bill, said in May 17 debate.

"It is not just happening in this country; it is happening throughout
the rest of the world," Dreier said. "The current export policy regime
structure that we have is really out of step with the changes that
have taken place."

Representative Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who co-sponsored the
30-day bill, expressed "severe disappointment" with the 60-day

"The current policy is disastrous," Lofgren said. "This amendment that
is before us is, in fact, an improvement over current policy, but it
is far short of what we could have done."

In February President Clinton announced a decision to raise the Tier
III threshold on computer exports subject to congressional review from
6,500 million theoretical operations per second (MTOPS) to 12,500.
Under the 180-day review that change will not take effect until

Tier III includes India, Pakistan, China, Vietnam and the countries of
the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and Maghreb, and some
countries in Central Europe.

(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
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