Militarily Critical
Technologies List

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. security interests.1

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 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. 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 include:

  • 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 Technology
  • 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 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 Institute.
2. National Counterintelligence Executive, Annual Report to Congress on Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage - 2004. Accessed via Internet at, June 20, 2005.




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