Magazine article Arms Control Today

GAO Reports on U.S. Arms Exports Discrepancies

Magazine article Arms Control Today

GAO Reports on U.S. Arms Exports Discrepancies

Article excerpt

U.S. PROCESSES FOR controlling arms exports have failed to properly review and account for weapons and technology transfers, according to two reports the General Accounting Office (GAO) released September 20.

One report by the GAO, a nonpartisan government agency tasked with carrying out studies for Congress, faulted the Commerce Department for not seeking advice from the State Department frequently enough and for wrongly deciding that it, and not the State Department, should approve certain proposed exports.

In the U.S. export system, the State Department approves commercial exports of weapons and other purely military items, while the Commerce Department oversees exports of dual-use goods that have both military and civilian applications. Companies conducting defense-related trade are responsible for determining which channel to use.

Between fiscal years 1998 and 2001, companies requested more than 12,400 export classifications from Commerce, meaning they asked for a determination as to what regulations applied to the proposed export. Of those requests, Commerce only referred 40 to the State and Defense Departments for their input on what controls should apply. GAO felt that at least another 253 should have been referred based on criteria set out by Commerce, and it noted that State and Defense Department officials believe that Commerce should be referring "most, if not all," such requests to them. Commerce disputed this contention.

GAO also reported "several instances" in which Commerce misclassified proposed exports as being under its jurisdiction when they should have been licensed through State. …

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