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The Optical Society Encourages Optics and
Photonics Community to Review Notice of Inquiry

WASHINGTON — Today the U.S. Department of State and the Department of Commerce published a Notice of Inquiry in the Federal Register to seek public opinion on Category XII of the United States Munitions List (USML) and proposed changes to the Commerce Control List (CCL) Category VI. The Optical Society (OSA) encourages members and constituents to review this comprehensive document and evaluate the potential impact on your business. Comments are being accepted via the Federal Register (State and Commerce) through 14 March 2017.

“The President’s Export Control Reform (ECR) initiative was meant to provide a more positive USML with respect to clearly defining which items are controlled,” said Elizabeth Rogan, CEO of The Optical Society. “To date, revisions have been focused on eliminating the ambiguity and subjectivity in the language so that business involved in global trade could have a more well-defined structure on what is a defense article and controlled under the USML.  Members of The Optical Society heavily weighed in on the final rule released on October 11, 2016. Our community must do the same now as additional changes are being considered.”

One of the publically supported changes in the final rule was the adoption of control language in multiple subparagraphs of the USML Category XII that would control specific items designed for military end-user. The note in the final rule also states that, “any item is not deemed to be classified as specially designed for a military end-user if it was initially developed as dual use that is for both non-military and military end-users or if the item was created with no specific end-user in mind.”

Dr. Gregory Quarles, Chief Scientist for The Optical Society, added, “The Notice of Inquiry is asking for additional public input, which includes suggested control parameters for seven specific entries in the final rule. These entries cover specially designed systems for military end-users involving technologies that are of interest to our members and constituents, including LIDAR and LADAR based detection systems, hand-held and helmet-mounted imaging systems, infrared focal plane arrays, electro-optical based reconnaissance and surveillance/targeting systems,  distributed aperture systems, IR imaging systems as part of gimbaled systems and terahertz imaging systems. The NOI is a proposed rule meaning if the agencies don’t hear from our community, the rules stand as written.”

About Category XII
Category XII was the last category considered due to the complexity of the areas it covers. Last May, OSA and over 100 companies voiced concern with the proposal when it was released. OSA partnered with other societies to educate members of Congress about the negative effects the rules would have for the optics and photonics industry. The results include letters by members of Congress from Silicon Valley to the Administration expressing concern over the negative impacts as well.

On 10 February 2016, Dr. Quarles testified before the House Small Business Committee and outlined three areas where the proposed rule would most affect the optics community and small businesses; impact on the time to market for regulated products and components, cost of compliance and the need to enhance government export assistance resources. Review the testimony.
Submit Your Comments

  • Commerce: Submit via the Federal rulemaking portal:, rule is BIS-2017-0001. Please refer to RIN 0694-XC035 in all comments.
  • State: Email with the subject line, “Request for Comments Regarding USML Category XII.”
About The Optical Society
Founded in 1916, The Optical Society (OSA) is the leading professional organization for scientists, engineers, students and business leaders who fuel discoveries, shape real-life applications and accelerate achievements in the science of light. Through world-renowned publications, meetings and membership initiatives, OSA provides quality research, inspired interactions and dedicated resources for its extensive global network of optics and photonics experts. The Optical Society is a founding sponsor of the National Photonics Initiative. For more information, visit