Comment period to open for Notice of Inquiry affecting optics and photonics export controls

60-day comment period opens tomorrow via the Federal Register; level of comment will impact result

12 January 2017

WASHINGTON, DC, and BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA — Today the Department of State and Department of Commerce published a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) in the Federal Register to seek public opinion about reinstating technical parameters where "specially designed" is used in the new U.S. Munitions List (USML) Category XII and proposed changes to the Commerce Control List (CCL) Category VI. The comment period will begin 13 January and is open until 13 March.

Leaders of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, are advising the community that the level of public comment received will influence whether the wording is retained or replaced.

"The NOI acts as a pre-proposed rule with an open comment period so that interested parties may respond to the notice via the Federal Register," said Jennifer Douris, SPIE Government Affairs Director. "Establishing objective parameters was one of the goals of the Export Control Reform initiative under which the USML and CCL were evaluated. If parameters unique to the military can be identified and agreed upon by the interagency and industry, this sets a clear, bright line for jurisdiction decisions."

The NOI and other matters affecting export controls will be discussed with Department of Commerce staff during several industry program sessions
at SPIE Photonics West

The response to the NOI by the impacted community will have influence over more formal proposed rules. A robust public response to these notices may allow the final rules published in October 2016 to stand as written.

However, a modest response to the notice could provide evidence to the governing U.S. agencies that the impacted community has no significant objection to the changes proposed in the NOI.

"Many members of our community worked hard to include particular wording in new rules now in place to ensure undue restrictions were not placed on commercial items," said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. "Those who hope to see this guidance retained in the rules will need to step forward and comment once again in order to ensure that their voices are heard and their needs reflected in any revisions resulting from the NOI process."

It is important that when companies and universities evaluate the parameters published within the NOI, they consider not only direct impact to a current production lines or research, but also whether the parameter could stand the test time, Douris noted.

"There is no guarantee that requests to modify established parameters would be accepted if technology changed in the future," she said. "Even if the proposed parameters do not directly capture commercial technologies currently in production, unless parameters are clearly unique to the military, commercial growth in that technology area could be artificially capped for U.S. industry."

Starting 13 January, interested parties may comment via the Federal Register: [State Department NOI] and [Commerce Department NOI].

SPIE has drafted templates to assist companies and universities with their response to both. Templates will bee available by 13 January at

Both the NOI and other matters affecting export controls will be discussed with Department of Commerce staff during several industry program sessions at SPIE Photonics West (Wednesday 1 February, 9-11 a.m. and 4-5 p.m., and 2 February, 10 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.).

About SPIE

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, is an educational not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based science, engineering and technology. The Society serves nearly 264,000 constituents from approximately 166 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library. In 2016, SPIE provided $4 million in support of education and outreach programs.


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