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U.S. confirms ex-Pentagon official for Commerce Dept Russia export control post

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By Reuters
U.S. confirms ex-Pentagon official for Commerce Dept Russia export control post
U.S. confirms ex-Pentagon official for Commerce Dept Russia export control post   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2022

By Karen Freifeld

WASHINGTON -The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed former Pentagon official Alan Estevez to serve as under secretary of commerce for industry and security, overseeing restrictions on exports to countries like Russia and China.

Estevez will take the helm of the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), which is wielding export controls to keep goods and technology from Russia’s military and industry in response to its war against Ukraine.

Officials at the bureau helped bring together an unprecedented coalition of 33 countries restricting exports to Russia to hamper the war effort and punish the invaders. It also has been at the center of the U.S.-China tech battle.

“Commerce is at the forefront of the Biden-Harris Administration’s response to Russia’s brutal assault on Ukraine and many other critical national security priorities, and I appreciate the Senate’s action,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in a statement on Estevez’s confirmation. “We look forward to him getting to work.”

Russia calls its action in Ukraine a “special operation.”

Estevez, an executive with Deloitte Consulting, spent 36 years at the Department of Defense. During the Obama administration, he represented the department on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews investments for national security.

Estevez had been viewed a safe bet for the Commerce Department post when President Joe Biden nominated him in July, in part because of a limited track record on China. The bureau has power over Chinese companies dependent on U.S. technology.

But his confirmation was held up by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton and Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez.

Cotton dropped his opposition in November after Estevez said he would “aggressively” police tech exports to China.

But Menendez held up the confirmation until Thursday over a matter involving oversight of U.S. firearms exports, according to a person familiar with the matter. He gave the go-ahead after making progress on the matter.

“Secretary Raimondo and her team at the Commerce Department have engaged constructively on the critical issues that I raised,” Menendez said in a statement.

Kevin Wolf, a former Commerce official once viewed as a likely candidate for the under secretary post, hailed the confirmation.

“More is being expected of the Commerce Department’s export control authorities than ever before,” Wolf said. “Having an undersecretary in place to lead it is critical.”