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 specifications and thresholds that make each technology critical
to the military.
The majority of the MCTL technologies are dual use technologies, which means
they can be used for both military and civilian applications. For example,
new, rugged, high-power lasers have a specialized civilian application, but
they are also adaptable to sensitive military applications.
A foreign intelligence collector may use alleged
civilian use as a plausible cover for seeking information or materials that
have military applications. Dual-use items that would make a
significant contribution to the military potential of another country are on
the Department of Commerce's Commodity Control List, and a license is
required for their export. The acquisition of any of these technologies by a
potential adversary would lead to the significant enhancement of the
military-industrial capabilities of that country to the detriment of U.S.
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. It is the technical foundation for
- 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
The overall document is several hundred pages
in length. A hard copy is generally published annually. However, the MCTL is updated
almost daily, so the hard copy should be used only as a general guide. The Department of Commerce should be consulted for up-to-date information relating
to specific cases.
The major technology categories in the MCTL
- Aeronautics Systems Technology
- Armaments and Energetic Materials
- Biological Technology
- Biomedical Technology
- Chemical Technology
- Directed and Kinetic Energy Systems
- Energy Systems Technology
- Electronics Technology
- Ground Systems Technology
- Information Systems Technology
- Lasers, Optics & Imaging Technology
- Processing & Manufacturing Technology
- Marine Systems Technology
- Materials and Processes Technology
- Nuclear Systems Technology
- Positioning, Navigation & Time
- Information Security Technology
- Signature Control Technology
- Space Systems Technology
- Weapons Effects Technology
For each of these technology categories,
there is a general discussion of how this technology is used by the military
and detailed information on each technology that is subject to export
control and other regulations.
Several Department of Defense agencies maintain records of suspicious
foreign attempts to obtain MCTL technologies. As of 2004, the MCTL
technologies most in sought after by foreign intelligence collectors have
remained unchanged for several years. They are: information systems
(software and hardware), sensors (the eyes and ears of many military
systems, including high-speed cameras, night vision equipment, and sensor
platforms placed on unmanned aerial vehicles), aeronautics (unmanned aerial
vehicles, composite materials, onboard computer management systems,
experimental aerospace platforms), and electronics (used in virtually every
weapons system to enhance performance and reliability while reducing size
and increasing power)
You may access the MCTL on the Internet at
www.dtic.mil/mctl. To obtain a copy of the most recent MCTL, contact the Defense Technical
Information Center (DTIC), 8725 John J. Kingman Rd., Ft. Belvoir, VA
22060-6218. Telephone: (703) 767-8274 or 1-800-225-3842.
1. This topic is based in part on "The Militarily Critical Technologies List (MCTL)," Security
Awareness Bulletin, Number 2-95. Richmond, VA: Department of Defense Security
2. National Counterintelligence Executive, Annual Report to Congress on Foreign Economic Collection and
Industrial Espionage - 2004. Accessed via Internet at www.nacic.gov/publications/index.html,
June 20, 2005.