Commerce considering emerging technologies, including AI, for export control

By Justin Doubleday / November 21, 2018 at 10:02 AM

The Commerce Department is seeking input on how to best identify emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, that are essential to national security and could be subject to export controls. 

On Nov. 19, Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security released an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) to get public comments on criteria for defining and identifying emerging technologies. The Export Control Reform Act of 2018, signed into law as part of this year’s defense authorization bill, allows Commerce to establish controls on export, re-export, or in-country transfer of emerging and foundational technologies.

“While Commerce has discretion to set the level of export controls, at a minimum it must require a license for the export of emerging and foundational technologies to countries subject to a U.S. embargo, including those subject to an arms embargo,” the notice states. “Responses to this ANPRM will help Commerce and other agencies identify and assess emerging technologies for the purposes of updating the export control lists without impairing national security or hampering the ability of the U.S. commercial sector to keep pace with international advances in emerging fields.”

Comments are due by Dec. 19.  

The notice includes a list of 14 “representative” technology categories, each with their own subcategories, “from which Commerce, through an interagency process, seeks to determine whether there are specific emerging technologies that are important to the national security of the United States for which effective controls can be implemented that avoid negatively impacting U.S. leadership in the science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing sectors.” 

The categories include hypersonics, robotics, quantum information and sensing technology, biotechnology and advanced surveillance technologies. 

It also includes an artificial intelligence and machine learning category with 11 subcategories such as neural networks, computer vision, speech and audio processing, and AI cloud technologies. 

Pentagon officials say AI, hypersonics, quantum science and other technologies on the notice’s list are crucial to the future of warfighting.
Meanwhile, the Defense Department’s latest report on the Chinese military identified dual-use technologies as central to China’s military modernization efforts.