Arms Exports:

Licensing Reviews for Exporting Military Items Can Be Improved

NSIAD-87-211: Published: Sep 9, 1987. Publicly Released: Sep 9, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of State's Office of Munition Control's (OMC) arms export licensing activities and procedures and identified actions OMC took to cope with its increased work load.

GAO found that OMC: (1) approved about 90 percent of the license applications it acted on; (2) acted on 80 percent in less than a month; and (3) did not routinely check export license application data for accuracy or veracity. GAO also found that OMC has: (1) insufficient facilities and automated capabilities to store and retrieve historical data which would be useful in license application reviews; and (2) inadequate systems and procedures to ensure compliance with some administrative and reporting requirements.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should require OMC to use readily available information on parties involved in arms exports to help identify export license applications requiring closer scrutiny.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State IG reported in March 1992 that DTC has established procedures to routinely screen registration and license applications against databases that contain names of companies and individuals being investigated, indicted or convicted of criminal violations, and names of those ineligible to contract with the U.S. Government.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should require OMC to develop procedures and criteria for requesting that U.S. embassies help verify license application information.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In September 1990, DTC established procedures for requesting embassy assistance in verifying the foreign end use/end users of U.S. defense exports. DTC also established a list of indications that may signal illegal exports or diversions. DTC provided this information to embassies in June 1991 and to industry in January 1991. In 1991, DTC opened about 300 end-use checks, versus 17 cases in 1990.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should require OMC to ensure exporter compliance with administrative and reporting requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DTC has developed a checklist for its licensing officers to remind them of the supporting documentation required from the applicants. This checklist will also be incorporated onto the license applications. DTC has updated its database on agreements, and plans to begin audits for compliance in the first quarter of fiscal year 1993.

    Recommendation: To minimize the effect on OMC timeliness, OMC should assess its long-term automation needs with a view toward automating much of the export license review process. In this connection, OMC should also examine the feasibility of adapting for its use the automated review system being developed by the Department of Defense.

    Agency Affected: Department of State: Bureau of Political-Military Affairs: Office of Munitions Control

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DTC designed a new computer system that automated much of the license application review process. The system consists of new hardware and software, and utilizes the latest in data, voice, and image processing technologies. DTC expanded the system's capabilities since it went online in August 1990 and now considers the system fully operational.

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