But the plan is likely to encounter resistance in Congress, where many lawmakers say they are worried about proliferation. While some of the reforms can be done thru executive power, a complete overhaul of the system would require legislation.
Gates said he wants Congress to pass a reform bill by the end of the year because the existing bureaucracy has alienated U.S. allies and still failed to keep sophisticated technology away from adversaries.
The "famous maxim, 'He who defends everything, defends nothing' certainly applies to export control," Gates said in a speech attended by defense contractors.
The proposal is focused on so-called dual-use technologies, items like computers and helicopter spare parts that are sold commercially for civilian purposes but also can be used by militant forces. Various federal agencies regulate these items and have competing oversight on whether they may be sold abroad.
The Obama administration's plan calls for the creation of a single list and a single licensing agency. The plan also calls for the creation of a single enforcement agency. This final step in particular was expected to require legislation.
Gates said the single list and licensing agency would allow the government to concentrate on controlling the nation's "crown jewels."