Export Controls:

Actions Needed To Improve Enforcement

NSIAD-94-28: Published: Dec 30, 1993. Publicly Released: Jan 31, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the U.S. government's enforcement of export controls over dual-use items, focusing on: (1) the tools and resources available to the Department of Commerce and the U.S. Customs Service to carry out their enforcement responsibilities; (2) how well these agencies are enforcing export controls; (3) impediments to effective enforcement; and (4) options for modifying the enforcement organizational structure.

GAO found that: (1) the enforcement tools and authorities available to Commerce and Customs are generally complementary, but their criminal investigation responsibilities overlap; (2) Customs has a larger enforcement network than Commerce, but Commerce has the ability to link its enforcement and licensing activities and impose administrative sanctions; (3) both agencies have reduced their resources for dual-use export enforcement since fiscal year (FY) 1988 due in part to the relaxation of controls over shipments to the former Soviet bloc; (4) Commerce expects its FY 1994 dual-use export enforcement budget to decline sharply; (5) the effectiveness of Commerce's and Customs' enforcement efforts declined in FY 1992 compared to previous years; (6) poor cooperation between Commerce and Customs is the most serious impediment to effective export enforcement; (7) Department of Justice officials believe that maintaining two separate agencies with overlapping jurisdictions is inefficient and wasteful, particularly in the face of continuing budget reductions; (8) the two most meritorious options for modifying the enforcement structure are maintaining the split in Commerce's and Customs' enforcement responsibilities while improving their cooperation, coordination, and use of resources, or transferring criminal enforcement responsibility to Customs; and (9) Commerce and Customs have recently initiated two agreements to improve their cooperation efforts, but Congress will have to monitor the agreements' implementation to ensure that results are actually achieved.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress has not yet enacted fundamental changes to the Export Administration Act. According to congressional staff, it is unlikely that any action will be taken in the foreseeable future on this issue.

    Matter: Congress should weigh the various options for improving export control enforcement, as well as the recent actions taken by the Commerce Department and the U.S. Customs Service, and then consider amending the Export Administration Act (EAA) as needed to improve the U.S. government's ability to enforce controls over dual-use exports, preferably by: (1) maintaining Commerce's and Customs' shared jurisdiction for dual-use export control enforcement and reinforcing efforts to improve cooperation; or (2) granting Customs primary responsibility for EAA criminal investigations, with corresponding improvements in Customs' operations.


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