Nonproliferation:

Improvements Needed to Better Control Technology Exports for Cruise Missiles and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

GAO-04-175: Published: Jan 23, 2004. Publicly Released: Feb 23, 2004.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Joseph A. Christoff
(202) 512-8979
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) pose a growing threat to U.S. national security interests as accurate, inexpensive delivery systems for conventional, chemical, and biological weapons. GAO assessed (1) the tools the U.S. and foreign governments use to address proliferation risks posed by the sale of these items and (2) efforts to verify the end use of exported cruise missiles, UAVs, and related technology.

The growing threat to U.S. national security of cruise missile and UAV proliferation is challenging the tools the United States has traditionally used. Multilateral export control regimes have expanded their lists of controlled technologies, but key countries of concern are not members. U.S. export control authorities find it increasingly difficult to limit or track unlisted dual-use items that can be acquired without an export license. Moreover, a gap in U.S. export control authority enables American companies to export certain dual-use items to recipients that are not associated with missile projects or countries listed in the regulations, even if the exporter knows the items might be used to develop cruise missiles or UAVs. American companies have in fact legally exported dualuse items with no U.S. government review to a New Zealand resident who bought the items to build a cruise missile. The U.S. government seldom uses its end-use monitoring programs to verify compliance with conditions placed on the use of cruise missile, UAV, or related technology exports. For example, State officials do not monitor exports to verify compliance with license conditions on missiles or other items, despite legal and regulatory requirements to do so. Defense has not used its end-use monitoring program initiated in 2002 to check the compliance of users of more than 500 cruise missiles exported between fiscal years 1998 and 2002. Commerce conducted visits to assess the end use of items for about 1 percent of the 2,490 missile-related licenses we reviewed. Thus, the U.S. government cannot be confident that recipients are effectively safeguarding equipment in ways that protect U.S. national security and nonproliferation interests.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: State said that in conjunction with steps taken to improve the targeting of Blue Lantern checks and increase the number conducted annually, it would pay special attention to the need for additional pre- and post-shipment checks for cruise missile- and UAV-related technologies. However, State did not provide any evidence that it had increased the number of end-use checks for cruise missile- and UAV-related technologies.

    Recommendation: As part of the assessment, the Departments of of State, Commerce, and Defense should also conduct additional PSV visits on a sample of cruise missile and UAV licenses. This assessment would allow the departments to gain critical information that would allow them to better balance potential proliferation risks of various technologies with available resources for conducting future PSV visits.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to the GAO recommendation, Defense reported that it conducted compliance visits to Japan, Australia, Switzerland, Greece, Bahrain, and Egypt. These visits did not disclose any violations of the Arms Export Control Act or of Letters of Offer and Acceptance terms and conditions associated with the various transfers. In addition, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency scheduled additional end-use monitoring visits to 20 countries. Although DOD disagreed that it was an appropriate agency to implement our first recommendation, it agreed to conduct, and reported that it did conduct, the additional end-use checks.

    Recommendation: As part of the assessment, the Departments of of State, Commerce, and Defense should also conduct additional PSV visits on a sample of cruise missile and UAV licenses. This assessment would allow the departments to gain critical information that would allow them to better balance potential proliferation risks of various technologies with available resources for conducting future PSV visits.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: State disagreed with our recommendation and said that the absence of evidence in our report of misuse or diversion does not warrant such an extensive effort.

    Recommendation: Because the departments have conducted so few PSV visits to monitor compliance with U.S. government export conditions on transfers of cruise missiles, UAVs and related dual-use technology, the extent of the compliance problem is unknown. While we recognize that there is no established or required number of PSV visits that should be completed, the small number completed does not allow the United States to determine the nature and extent of compliance with these conditions. Thus, the Secretaries of State, Commerce, and Defense, as a first step, should each complete a comprehensive assessment of cruise missile, UAV, and related dual-use technology transfers to determine whether U.S. exporters and foreign end users are complying with the conditions on the transfers.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD disagreed that it was an appropriate agency to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: Because the departments have conducted so few PSV visits to monitor compliance with U.S. government export conditions on transfers of cruise missiles, UAVs and related dual-use technology, the extent of the compliance problem is unknown. While we recognize that there is no established or required number of PSV visits that should be completed, the small number completed does not allow the United States to determine the nature and extent of compliance with these conditions. Thus, the Secretaries of State, Commerce, and Defense, as a first step, should each complete a comprehensive assessment of cruise missile, UAV, and related dual-use technology transfers to determine whether U.S. exporters and foreign end users are complying with the conditions on the transfers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to the GAO recommendation, Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) initiated a review of certain specific controlled dual-use items related to cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles for selection of post-shipment verifications (PSVs). Notwithstanding largely favorable results of this review, BIS believes there is value in continuing to monitor these specific missile technology items for additional scrutiny for PSV selections. Accordingly, BIS modified policy guidance and targeting criteria for future selection of cruise missile and unmanned aerial vehicle items for PSVs.

    Recommendation: Because the departments have conducted so few PSV visits to monitor compliance with U.S. government export conditions on transfers of cruise missiles, UAVs and related dual-use technology, the extent of the compliance problem is unknown. While we recognize that there is no established or required number of PSV visits that should be completed, the small number completed does not allow the United States to determine the nature and extent of compliance with these conditions. Thus, the Secretaries of State, Commerce, and Defense, as a first step, should each complete a comprehensive assessment of cruise missile, UAV, and related dual-use technology transfers to determine whether U.S. exporters and foreign end users are complying with the conditions on the transfers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GAO's report noted that a gap in dual-use export control regulations could enable individuals in most countries of the world to legally obtain without any U.S. government review U.S. dual-use items not on the Commerce Control List to help make a cruise missile or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Consequently, GAO recommended that the Secretary of Commerce assess and report on the adequacy of the Export Administration Regulations' catch-all provision to address missile proliferation by nonstate actors. This assessment should indicate ways the provision might be modified. In commenting on GAO's draft report, the Secretary of Commerce agreed to review whether the existing catch-all provision sufficiently protects U.S. national security interests. Commerce reviewed this issue and reported the results of the review and proposed modifications to the rule to help close the gap. In an April 14, 2004, letter to the Chairman, Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations, House Committee on Government Reform, the Secretary of Commerce stated that the Bureau of Industry and Security had begun a review of the missile end-user controls and circulated a proposed rule to reviewing agencies for comment on April 9. He stated that the rule, once implemented, would satisfy the GAO recommendation. The rule was published as an interim rule on November 8, 2004, on page 64,657 of the Federal Register. While several provisions of the regulation strengthen existing controls, one provision, in particular, addresses the GAO recommendation. This provision states that an exporter "may not export, re-export, or transfer (in-country) an item subject to the regulations without a license if at the time of the export, re-export or transfer, the exporter knows that the item will be used, anywhere in the world, in rocket systems or unmanned air vehicles, regardless of range capabilities, for the delivery of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons."

    Recommendation: A gap in dual-use export control regulations could enable individuals in most countries of the world to legally obtain without any U.S. government review U.S. dual-use items not on the Commerce Control List to help make a cruise missile or UAV. Consequently, the Secretary of Commerce should assess and report to the Committee on Government Reform on the adequacy of the Export Administration Regulations' catch-all provision to address missile proliferation by nonstate actors. This assessment should indicate ways the provision might be modified.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Commerce reported that it assessed the results of 34 post-shipment verifications conducted between June 2004 and June 2006 on items identified by its engineers as requiring the most attention. Based on that analysis, Commerce revised its policies and instructions for conducting PSVs

    Recommendation: As part of the assessment, the Departments of of State, Commerce, and Defense should also conduct additional PSV visits on a sample of cruise missile and UAV licenses. This assessment would allow the departments to gain critical information that would allow them to better balance potential proliferation risks of various technologies with available resources for conducting future PSV visits.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Nov 18, 2014

Nov 13, 2014

Oct 21, 2014

Sep 24, 2014

Sep 10, 2014

Sep 9, 2014

Aug 28, 2014

Jul 24, 2014

Looking for more? Browse all our products here