Trump Administration Approves Updated Drone Export Policy

Trump administration has announced an update to the 2018 Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Export Policy on July 24.

With this revision, the U.S. government will invoke its national discretion on the implementation of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)’s ‘strong presumption of denial’ for transfers of Category I systems to treat a carefully selected subset of MTCR Category I UAS with maximum airspeed less than 800 kilometers per hour as Category II.

A statement from Morgan Ortagus, the spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, said that all proposed transfers affected by this change will continue to be subject to the same rigorous review criteria outlined in the United States’ UAS Export Policy, the Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, and the Arms Export Control Act, as well as the specific nonproliferation criteria identified in the MTCR Guidelines.

Full Press statement from Morgan Ortagus:

Today, the administration announced an update to the 2018 Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Export Policy which affects one of America’s most innovative industries. With this revision, the U.S. government will invoke its national discretion on the implementation of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)’s ‘strong presumption of denial’ for transfers of Category I systems to treat a carefully selected subset of MTCR Category I UAS with maximum airspeed less than 800 kilometers per hour as Category II.

All proposed transfers affected by this change will continue to be subject to the same rigorous review criteria outlined in the United States’ UAS Export Policy, the Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, and the Arms Export Control Act, as well as the specific nonproliferation criteria identified in the MTCR Guidelines. This policy change modernizes our approach to implementing our MTCR commitments to reflect current technological realities and helps our allies and partners meet their urgent national security and commercial requirements.

The United States remains a committed member of the MTCR and regards it as an important nonproliferation tool to curb the spread of high-end missile technologies to countries such as North Korea and Iran. Preventing the use and spread of WMD and their means of delivery remains an administration priority.

Statement from White House Press Secretary:

Today, President Donald J. Trump is taking action to improve the standards for exporting Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS).  While the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is critical in slowing proliferation and promoting peace and security, it is in dire need of modernization as it applies to UAS.  In a sector of rapidly evolving technology, the MTCR’s standards are more than three decades old.  Not only do these outdated standards give an unfair advantage to countries outside of the MTCR and hurt United States industry, they also hinder our deterrence capability abroad by handicapping our partners and allies with subpar technology.  More than two years of discussion with MTCR partners were unable to produce consensus on this overdue reform.  Therefore, the President has decided to invoke our national discretion to treat a carefully selected subset of MTCR Category I UAS, which cannot travel faster than 800 kilometers per hour, as Category II.  As such, the United States has determined that it will overcome the MTCR’s strong presumption of denial for this UAS subset.

This action, which is consistent with MTCR Guidelines and the objectives of the April 2018 UAS Export Policy, will increase our national security by improving the capabilities of our partners and increase our economic security by opening the expanding UAS market to United States industry.  It also sets a strong example for other MTCR partners to adopt the same standard.

United States UAS exports continue to be subject to the rigorous review criteria outlined in the UAS Export Policy, the Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, and the Arms Export Control Act, as well as the specific nonproliferation criteria identified in the MTCR Guidelines.  Likewise, approving or denying a UAS sale to any country is a whole-of-government decision and takes into account our national security, nonproliferation, and foreign policy objectives, as well as the purchasing country’s ability to responsibly use and safeguard United States-origin technology.  The United States looks forward to all MTCR nations joining us in adopting this new standard.



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