Nonproliferation:

U.S. Efforts to Combat Nuclear Networks Need Better Data on Proliferation Risks and Program Results

GAO-08-21: Published: Oct 31, 2007. Publicly Released: Oct 31, 2007.

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For decades, the United States has tried to impede nuclear proliferation networks that provide equipment to nuclear weapons development programs in countries such as Pakistan and Iran. GAO was asked to examine U.S. efforts to counter nuclear proliferation networks, specifically the (1) status of U.S. efforts to strengthen multilateral controls, (2) impact of U.S. assistance to help other countries improve their legal and regulatory controls, and (3) impact of U.S. efforts to strengthen its enforcement activities. GAO's findings focused on seven countries where network activities reportedly occurred.

The United States has advocated several multilateral actions to counter nuclear proliferation networks. Although multilateral bodies have adopted some U.S. proposals, they have not adopted others. For example, the United States negotiated passage of a United Nations Security Council resolution that obligated all member states to adopt laws and regulations prohibiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It also led the development of watch lists of nuclear technologies that are not formally controlled by states and formation of a multilateral unit intended to analyze covert nuclear trade activities. However, one multilateral body has not adopted two key U.S. proposals made in 2004 to commit its members to add new restrictions on exporting sensitive nuclear technologies. Also, one multilateral organization has not adopted a recommendation for member states to provide it with more export data that would allow it to better detect covert nuclear activities. The impact of U.S. bilateral assistance to strengthen countries' abilities to counter nuclear networks is uncertain because U.S. agencies do not consistently assess the results of this assistance. The impact of this assistance is difficult to determine because the Department of State did not evaluate either (1) the proliferation risk for all of the countries in which network activities are alleged to have occurred or (2) the results of its assistance efforts. Between 2003 and 2006, State and the Department of Energy provided about $9 million to improve the export controls of seven countries in which nuclear proliferation network activities reportedly occurred. State did not evaluate either (1) the proliferation risk for all of the countries in which network activities are alleged to have occurred or (2) the results of its assistance efforts. State did not perform risk analyses for 11 of the 56 countries in its program for those years and did not document the basis for each country's proliferation threat level or explain how the risk analyses were done. Of the six countries in our study to which State provided assistance, State performed risk analyses for five. Also, State did not conduct program assessments for about 60 percent of its participating countries and for two of the six countries in our study that received assistance. Moreover, while State's program assessments characterize a country's export control system and its weaknesses, they do not assess how U.S. training efforts contributed to correcting weaknesses. Relevant U.S. agencies are impaired from judging their progress in preventing nuclear networks because they cannot readily identify basic information on the number, nature, or details of all their enforcement activities involving nuclear proliferation. The U.S. government identified the prevention of nuclear proliferation as a high priority. U.S. agencies collect information, maintain lists of companies and individuals that they sanction, and maintain case files on investigations of suspected violations of U.S. law. However, most of these agencies cannot readily identify which enforcement activities involve nuclear proliferation as they cannot ensure that searching their case file databases for words, such as nuclear, would reveal all relevant cases.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In commenting on a draft of this report, State partially concurred with our recommendations. It said that it recognized the value in documenting in one place all risk analyses and the process by which they are reached and will do so in a revised publication of its Export Control and Related Border Security Assistance Program (EXBS) program strategic plan. In May 2011, State issued a revised EXBS Strategic Plan. State noted in this plan that, in order to clearly define the major risks posed by each country, the EXBS program has developed and is refining a database of open source information that will allow it to conduct and regularly update risk assessments of all countries and territories around the world. It documented these risk analyses in the plan.

    Recommendation: To help assess the impact of the U.S. response to the threat of nuclear proliferation networks, the Secretary of State should comply with its guidance to conduct periodic assessments of proliferation risk and the export control system for each country receiving EXBS funding.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In commenting on a draft of this report, State partially concurred with our recommendations. It said that it recognized the value in documenting in one place all risk analyses and the process by which they are reached and will do so in a revised publication of its Export Control and Related Border Security Assistance Program (EXBS) program strategic plan. In May 2011, State issued a revised EXBS Strategic Plan. State noted in this plan that, in order to clearly define the major risks posed by each country, the EXBS program has developed and is refining a database of open source information that will allow it to conduct and regularly update risk assessments of all countries and territories around the world. It documented these risk analyses in the plan.

    Recommendation: To help assess the impact of the U.S. response to the threat of nuclear proliferation networks, the Secretary of State should document each risk analysis conducted to evaluate the progress made in alleviating those risks.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to our recommendation in a November 27, 2007, memorandum, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) stated that CBP had concurred with the recommendation and had added a new "special operation" code for nuclear proliferation to its Seized Asset and Case Tracking System incident module. This new code will enable CBP officers who are initiating seizure records to identify any seizure known to involve nuclear proliferation by the new special operation code. In addition, CBP stated that it has added a new inspection finding code to its examination findings module in the Automated Commercial System and Cargo Enforcement Tracking System to denote examinations that are determined to involve nuclear proliferation issues. CBP has issued instructions to its field officers directing them to begin using the new codes once the new codes are available. It also provided updated information by stating that CBP issued instructions to its field officers on November 8, 2007, directing them to use the new codes.

    Recommendation: To help assess how U.S. government agencies that engage in export control enforcement activities are accomplishing their stated goal of combating nuclear proliferation, the Secretaries of Commerce, Homeland Security, and Treasury, and the U.S. Attorney General should individually direct that their respective agency's data collection processes be modified to support the collection and analysis of data that clearly identify when enforcement activities involve nuclear proliferation. For example, each agency could consider designating appropriate categories or codes for nuclear proliferation for staff to use when recording information in the databases.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In May 2012, Treasury explained its view to GAO that its existing data collection processes need not be modified in accordance with our recommendation. In comments on the 2008 report, Treasury said that its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) data already identify when SDN listings are linked to weapons proliferation or their means of delivery. However, Treasury confirmed that the Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators Sanctions Regulations make no distinction between nuclear proliferation, the proliferation of other weapons of mass destruction, or their means of delivery. Treasury noted that (1) assigning specific sub-categories to designated persons - - such as for "nuclear material supplier" - - is not always possible; (2) some actors may transcend or fall into multiple categories; (3) the specific type of materials involved may be classified in some cases; or (4) distinguishing among designated nonproliferation weapons of mass destruction (NPWMD) entities could create the misimpression that the U.S. Government views certain NPWMD designations as more important or warranting greater caution. In addition, Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control's electronic records stored in internal databases are also classified using unique codes that associate them with specific sanctions programs, including nonproliferation sanctions, according to Treasury. However, our recommendation was intended to help assess how U.S. government agencies that engage in export control enforcement activities are accomplishing their stated goal of combating nuclear proliferation. Treasury's data collection processes identify its enforcement activities only by the broader designations for NPWMD. As this designation does not allow for identifying nuclear proliferation specifically, it does not implement our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help assess how U.S. government agencies that engage in export control enforcement activities are accomplishing their stated goal of combating nuclear proliferation, the Secretaries of Commerce, Homeland Security, and Treasury, and the U.S. Attorney General should individually direct that their respective agency's data collection processes be modified to support the collection and analysis of data that clearly identify when enforcement activities involve nuclear proliferation. For example, each agency could consider designating appropriate categories or codes for nuclear proliferation for staff to use when recording information in the databases.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In October 2007, (Nonproliferation: U.S. Efforts to Combat Nuclear Networks Need Better Data on Proliferation Risks and Program Results (GAO-08-21), we recommended that the Secretaries of Commerce, Homeland Security, and Treasury, and the U.S. Attorney General should individually direct that their respective agency's data collection processes be modified to support the collection and analysis of data that clearly identify when enforcement activities involve nuclear proliferation. For example, each agency could consider designating appropriate categories or codes for nuclear proliferation for staff to use when recording information in the databases and mandating completion of the relevant data fields that would identify an enforcement action as related to nuclear proliferation. On April 10, 2009, Justice provided us an email with documentation supporting that it had implemented our recommendations. According to Justice, the FBI and U.S. Attorneys Executive Office (USAEO) have completed the actions between July and October 2008, required to close the recommendations. The attachment from the USAEO explains the use of new "case type" code in its LIONS criminal case reporting system for all cases and matters involving offenses related to nuclear proliferation. The attachment from the FBI states that the FBI supplemented its systems to track law enforcement information about nuclear proliferation risks. The FBI has added a field with 7 new codes to its data base. The codes distinguish among types of crimes that concern WMD proliferation. Also, the document shows that the FBI transmitted a bulletin to its offices telling them about the FBI's new codes and how to use them.

    Recommendation: To help assess how U.S. government agencies that engage in export control enforcement activities are accomplishing their stated goal of combating nuclear proliferation, the Secretaries of Commerce, Homeland Security, and Treasury, and the U.S. Attorney General should individually direct that their respective agency's data collection processes be modified to support the collection and analysis of data that clearly identify when enforcement activities involve nuclear proliferation. For example, each agency could consider designating appropriate categories or codes for nuclear proliferation for staff to use when recording information in the databases.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Office of the Attorney General

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Commerce stated that this recommendation should not be directed to Commerce because, as noted in the report, it already had this capability. We made the recommendation to Commerce because its various lists, such as the denied persons list, do not identify names included for nuclear proliferation reasons. Despite its position, subsequent to the GAO recommendation, Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security's (BIS) Office of Export Enforcement (OEE) modified the BIS Special Agent Manual to state that the Case Focus field of an investigative case must be completed as soon as there is information to determine the appropriate Case Focus designation. Moreover, BIS Special Agents now are required to indicate if a case is related to nuclear proliferation issues. OEE has made the Case Focus field mandatory in its Investigative Management System Redesigned (IMS-R) database. OEE can query if a Denied Party List entry is related to nuclear proliferation by querying the name of the denied party against the IMS-R database and looking at the Case Focus field for the IMS-R entry.

    Recommendation: To help assess how U.S. government agencies that engage in export control enforcement activities are accomplishing their stated goal of combating nuclear proliferation, the Secretaries of Commerce, Homeland Security, and Treasury, and the U.S. Attorney General should individually direct that their respective agency's data collection processes be modified to support the collection and analysis of data that clearly identify when enforcement activities involve nuclear proliferation. For example, each agency could consider mandating completion of relevant data fields that would identify an enforcement action as related to nuclear proliferation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  7. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In May 2012, Treasury explained its view to GAO that its existing data collection processes need not be modified in accordance with our recommendation. In comments on the 2008 report, Treasury said that its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) data already identify when SDN listings are linked to weapons proliferation or their means of delivery. However, Treasury confirmed that the Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators Sanctions Regulations make no distinction between nuclear proliferation, the proliferation of other weapons of mass destruction, or their means of delivery. Treasury noted that (1) assigning specific sub-categories to designated persons - - such as for "nuclear material supplier" - - is not always possible; (2) some actors may transcend or fall into multiple categories; (3) the specific type of materials involved may be classified in some cases; or (4) distinguishing among designated nonproliferation weapons of mass destruction (NPWMD) entities could create the misimpression that the U.S. Government views certain NPWMD designations as more important or warranting greater caution. In addition, Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control's electronic records stored in internal databases are also classified using unique codes that associate them with specific sanctions programs, including nonproliferation sanctions, according to Treasury. However, our recommendation was intended to help assess how U.S. government agencies that engage in export control enforcement activities are accomplishing their stated goal of combating nuclear proliferation. Treasury's data collection processes identify its enforcement activities only by the broader designations for NPWMD. As this designation does not allow for identifying nuclear proliferation specifically, it does not implement our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help assess how U.S. government agencies that engage in export control enforcement activities are accomplishing their stated goal of combating nuclear proliferation, the Secretaries of Commerce, Homeland Security, and Treasury, and the U.S. Attorney General should individually direct that their respective agency's data collection processes be modified to support the collection and analysis of data that clearly identify when enforcement activities involve nuclear proliferation. For example, each agency could consider mandating completion of relevant data fields that would identify an enforcement action as related to nuclear proliferation.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Commerce stated that this recommendation should not be directed to Commerce because, as noted in the report, it already had this capability. We made the recommendation to Commerce because its various lists, such as the denied persons list, do not identify names included for nuclear proliferation reasons. Despite its position, subsequent to the GAO recommendation, Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security's (BIS) Office of Export Enforcement (OEE) modified the BIS Special Agent Manual to state that the Case Focus field of an investigative case should be used to record information about the appropriate Case Focus designation. Further, BIS Special Agents are to use the Case Focus field to indicate whether a case is related to nuclear proliferation issues.

    Recommendation: To help assess how U.S. government agencies that engage in export control enforcement activities are accomplishing their stated goal of combating nuclear proliferation, the Secretaries of Commerce, Homeland Security, and Treasury, and the U.S. Attorney General should individually direct that their respective agency's data collection processes be modified to support the collection and analysis of data that clearly identify when enforcement activities involve nuclear proliferation. For example, each agency could consider designating appropriate categories or codes for nuclear proliferation for staff to use when recording information in the databases.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to our recommendation in a November 27, 2007, memorandum, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) stated that CBP had concurred with the recommendation and had added a new "special operation" code for nuclear proliferation to its Seized Asset and Case Tracking System incident module. This new code will enable CBP officers who are initiating seizure records to identify any seizure known to involve nuclear proliferation by the new special operation code. In addition, CBP stated that it has added a new inspection finding code to its examination findings module in the Automated Commercial System and Cargo Enforcement Tracking System to denote examinations that are determined to involve nuclear proliferation issues. CBP has issued instructions to its field officers directing them to begin using the new codes once the new codes are available. It also provided updated information by stating that CBP issued instructions to its field officers on November 8, 2007, directing them to use the new codes.

    Recommendation: To help assess how U.S. government agencies that engage in export control enforcement activities are accomplishing their stated goal of combating nuclear proliferation, the Secretaries of Commerce, Homeland Security, and Treasury, and the U.S. Attorney General should individually direct that their respective agency's data collection processes be modified to support the collection and analysis of data that clearly identify when enforcement activities involve nuclear proliferation. For example, each agency could consider mandating completion of relevant data fields that would identify an enforcement action as related to nuclear proliferation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In October 2007, (Nonproliferation: U.S. Efforts to Combat Nuclear Networks Need Better Data on Proliferation Risks and Program Results (GAO-08-21), we recommended that the Secretaries of Commerce, Homeland Security, and Treasury, and the U.S. Attorney General should individually direct that their respective agency's data collection processes be modified to support the collection and analysis of data that clearly identify when enforcement activities involve nuclear proliferation. For example, each agency could consider designating appropriate categories or codes for nuclear proliferation for staff to use when recording information in the databases and mandating completion of the relevant data fields that would identify an enforcement action as related to nuclear proliferation. On April 10, 2009, Justice provided us an email with documentation supporting that it had implemented our recommendations. According to Justice, the FBI and U.S. Attorneys Executive Office (USAEO) have completed the actions between July and October 2008, required to close the recommendations. The attachment from the USAEO explains the use of new "case type" code in its LIONS criminal case reporting system for all cases and matters involving offenses related to nuclear proliferation. The attachment from the FBI states that the FBI supplemented its systems to track law enforcement information about nuclear proliferation risks. The FBI has added a field with 7 new codes to its data base. The codes distinguish among types of crimes that concern WMD proliferation. Also, the document shows that the FBI transmitted a bulletin to its offices telling them about the FBI's new codes and how to use them.

    Recommendation: To help assess how U.S. government agencies that engage in export control enforcement activities are accomplishing their stated goal of combating nuclear proliferation, the Secretaries of Commerce, Homeland Security, and Treasury, and the U.S. Attorney General should individually direct that their respective agency's data collection processes be modified to support the collection and analysis of data that clearly identify when enforcement activities involve nuclear proliferation. For example, each agency could consider mandating completion of relevant data fields that would identify an enforcement action as related to nuclear proliferation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Office of the Attorney General

 

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