The ATF has proposed removing some items from The US Military Imports List, thereby deregulating the import of these items. It’s uncommon enough that even a citizen-oriented, constitutionally-chartered agency releases a grip on anything at all; to see it from the high-handed and expansionist ATF is extremely rare.
But here it is, right in the Federal Register. Note that two Lists control the import and export of arms, ammunition, and Significant Military Equipment: The The United States Munitions List, which is controlled by the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls of the lotus-eaters in the State Department, and the United States Munitions Import List (Title 27 Part 447), which is controlled by the ATF. The two lists are not the same and are not especially in agreement with one another; this has to do with the ATF import list.
The Department is removing from the USMIL Category I—Firearms, paragraph (e), ‘‘Riflescopes manufactured to military specifications and specifically designed or modified components therefor.’’ The defense articles currently covered by Category I, paragraph (e) are readily available through diverse domestic commercial sources and they do not present a significant concern for trafficking or diversion into illicit channels. The defense articles currently covered by Category I, paragraph (e) do not warrant import control under the AECA. The Department reserves this paragraph.
In Category III—Ammunition, the Department is removing and then reserving paragraphs (c), ‘‘Ammunition belting and linking machines,’’ and (d), ‘‘Ammunition manufacturing machines and ammunition loading machines (except handloading ones).’’ These defense articles are costly, difficult to maintain, too heavy for easy transport, and readily available from domestic vendors in the United States. These defense articles do not pose a trafficking and diversion threat warranting import control under the AECA.
In addition, in Category IV—Launch Vehicles, Guided Missiles, Ballistic Missiles, Rockets, Torpedoes, Bombs and Mines, the Department is removing and reserving paragraph (f), ‘‘Ablative materials fabricated or semi-fabricated from advanced composites (e.g., silica, graphite, carbon, carbon/carbon, and boron filaments) for the articles in this category that are derived directly from or specifically developed or modified for defense articles.’’ Such materials are a low threat to domestic security and are readily available in the domestic market.
Those first three items: Military-quality riflescopes, belt-linking and ammo-loading machines, and ablative composites are, as ATF asserts, widely available in the USA. The ATF may also have been feeling political heat from the aerospace and medical industries due to advanced composites imports being at the mercy of ATF’s notoriously slow bureaucrats.
Next up on the list, the ATF is backing down from micromanaging the import of dual-use and former naval vessels:
In Category VI—Vessels of War and Special Naval Equipment, the Department is clarifying paragraph (a) to read: ‘‘Vessels of War, if they are armed and equipped with offensive or defensive weapons systems, including but not limited to amphibious warfare vessels, landing craft, mine warfare vessels, patrol vessels, auxiliary vessels, service craft, experimental types of naval ships, and any vessels specifically designed or modified for military purposes or other surface vessels equipped with offensive or defensive military systems.’’ The new text focuses precisely on defense articles that might threaten domestic security or enable terrorist activities. Further in Category VI—Vessels of War and Special Naval Equipment, the Department is revising paragraph (b) to read: ‘‘Turrets and gun mounts, special weapons systems, protective systems, and other components, parts, attachments, and accessories specifically designed or modified for such articles on combatant vessels.’’ The new language focuses on defense articles that might threaten domestic security or enable terrorist activities. Also in Category VI, the Department is removing and reserving paragraphs (c) and (d). Mine sweeping equipment, harbor entrance detection devices, and related components and controls have numerous domestic suppliers and are low threats to domestic security. Additionally, the Department is revising the note in Category VI to clarify that the examples of vessels of war provided in Category VI must be armed and equipped with offensive or defensive weapon systems to be considered a defense article on the USMIL.
Note that the paragraphs are not being entirely deleted — they’re being “removed, and reserved.” Those include two in Category II (“Ammunition”) and one in Category IV (“Launch Vehicles, Missiles, etc.”) This suggests that the ATF may intend to add new materials to the USMIL, and this action is merely clearing some space on the list.
But what the ATF is actually doing with reference to tanks and armored vehicles is not at all clear from the NPRM. Here’s what they say:
he Department is updating Category VII—Tanks and Military Vehicles by removing and reserving paragraph (g), ‘‘Engines specifically designed or modified for the vehicles in paragraphs (a), (b), (c), and (f) of this category.’’ The defense articles listed in Category VII, paragraph (g) are substantially the same as those commercially available in the domestic market and not likely to be diverted for criminal use. The Department is revising paragraph (h) and including two explanatory notes. The Department is also adding a new paragraph (i), with a corresponding new note to Category VII to clarify that this category includes within its scope other ground vehicles that meet four technical parameters in the Wassenaar Arrangement’s Munitions List Category 6.