There was a time when America so thoroughly dominated the development of cutting-edge technologies that if other countries couldn’t get it here, they couldn’t get it at all. Those days are long gone, but you’d never know it from the way in which the federal government regulates the export of items with military applications. It nearly drove the domestic telecommunications satellite business out of the world market by insisting such satellites should be treated as military items, and now it threatens to do the same thing with infrared focal plane arrays. The global commercial market for uncooled FPA’s is projected to increase tenfold between now and the end of the decade, but in a perverse twist of the export reform process, the government may make it impossible for U.S. producers to participate in that market. It that happens, America’s military will end up depending on places like China and France for the focal plane arrays in its targeting devices and vision enhancers. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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