Washington | The US House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday (Thursday AEDT) designed to loosen controls on sharing military technology under the AUKUS agreement with Australia and Britain.
The legislation would direct the US State Department to report to Congress on efforts to implement the advanced capabilities pillar of the AUKUS alliance, and to identify key export controls that Congress must ease to make the pact a success.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced earlier this month details of the AUKUS pact to deliver a new AUKUS submarine in Australia by 2040 using US nuclear propulsion technology.
The pact has two pillars – delivering nuclear-powered submarines, while the second is developing quantum technologies, artificial intelligence and undersea capabilities. The second also includes the AUKUS Undersea Robotics Autonomous Systems project.
The bill, which eases export controls on this second pillar, passed 393-4 with the four naysayers all Democrats.
The Australian Financial Review reported this month that the most senior Republican on the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jim Risch, was pushing Congress to speed up changes to export restrictions on the cutting-edge technology to be shared among the three allies.
“The Biden administration also needs to be laser-focused on the second pillar of AUKUS – advanced capabilities. This is where AUKUS will see its earliest and most impactful wins and get more capability into the region,” Senator Risch said.
On Wednesday, Democrat Congressman Joe Courtney, the second-highest ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, also lent his support for the bill.
“Pooling these advanced capabilities will enhance our three nations’ capability to protect maritime freedom of navigation and aviation,” Mr Courtney said.
“This bill heeds that call by directing the Department of State to inventory any and all administrative and statutory objections to AUKUS implementation and report that back to Congress within 90 days.
“This is exactly what Congress needs to do.”
The bill, the second related to AUKUS, still has to pass the Senate. The first bill, passed last year, authorised Australian submariners to begin joint nuclear propulsion training in the United States. That cross-training has already begun in the US Navy’s training ship facility in Charleston, South Carolina.
Source: The Australian Financial Review