Administration of U.S. Export Licensing Should Be Consolidated To Be More Responsive to Industry

ID-78-60: Published: Oct 31, 1978. Publicly Released: Oct 31, 1978.

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Exports of commercially available commodities are regulated by the Secretary of Commerce and a group of consulting departments and agencies. The Department of Commerce makes final licensing decisions unilaterally in some instances; in other instances, decisions are made only after the unanimous consent of consulted agencies is secured. The government's administration of export licensing is characterized by diffused authority and a consequent lack of accountability to the public.

The Department of Commerce's Office of Export Administration (OEA) issued 50,737 export licenses in 1977. It denied 348 applications, and 1,291 applications took 90 or more days to be approved. The number of applications taking more than 30 days to process increased by 47 percent between 1976 and 1977; those taking 90 days to process increased by 52 percent; and those taking 180 days increased by 50 percent. The export licensing system needs to be revised to strike a balance between the need for greater accountability and the government's legitimate responsibility to control exports for national security, foreign policy, and short supply reasons. One alternative that might create a balance between accountability and licensing would be to establish a new export license management group which would be organizationally independent of existing export licensing agencies but which would oversee them. Responsiveness to exporters could best be increased by transferring export licensing management responsibility to Commerce.

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