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The Militarily Critical Technologies List (MCTL) is a detailed compendium of information on technologies which the Department of Defense assesses as critical to maintaining superior U.S. military capabilities. The MCTL contains definitions of thresholds that make technology militarily critical. The acquisition of any of these technologies by a potential adversary would lead to the significant enhancement of the military-industrial capabilities of that adversary to the detriment of U.S. security interests. It includes, for example, technologies associated with the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and missile delivery systems.
The MCTL provides us all with a greater degree of sophistication and sensitivity about what technology must be protected and what may be freely exchanged with our foreign counterparts. The majority of the MCTL technologies are dual use technologies, which means they can be used for both military and civilian applications. A foreign intelligence collector may use alleged civilian use as a plausible cover for seeking information that has military applications.
The MCTL is the technical foundation for decisions on:
- Proposals for export control, and for implementation of licensing and export control policies.
- Pre-publication review of scientific papers prepared by government, industry and academia.
- Tasking for intelligence collection.
- Research and development planning.
- International technology cooperation and transfer.
The overall document is several hundred pages in length. The MCTL is updated almost daily. The Department of State and Department of Commerce should be consulted for up-to-date information relating to specific cases.
The major technology categories in the MCTL include:
- Aeronautics systems
- Armaments and energetic materials
- Chemical and biological systems
- Directed and kinetic energy systems
- Ground systems
- Guidance, navigation, and vehicle control
- Information systems
- Information warfare
- Manufacturing and fabrication
- Marine systems
- Nuclear systems
- Power systems
- Sensors and lasers
- Signature control
- Space systems
- Weapons effects and countermeasures.
For each of these technology categories, there are tables showing country-by-country estimates of the general status of technological capabilities. One can see from these graphics which countries might be in a position to challenge our technological superiority, and which might be so devoid of specific critical technologies that they might engage in aggressive and costly intelligence operations to gain them.