Defense Trade: Better Information Needed to Support Decisions Affecting Proposed Weapons Transfers

GAO-03-694 Published: Jul 11, 2003. Publicly Released: Aug 11, 2003.
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Highlights

The heightened visibility of advanced U.S. weapons in military conflicts has prompted foreign countries to seek to purchase such weaponry. In 2001, transfers of U.S. weapons and technologies to foreign governments totaled over $12 billion. The potential loss of U.S. technological advantage has been raised as an issue in recently approved transfers of advanced military weapons and technologies--such as military aircraft that were reported in the media to contain superior radar and avionics than those in the Department of Defense's (DOD) inventory. GAO looked at how releasability of advanced weapons is determined, how U.S. technological advantage is considered and protected, and what information is needed to make informed decisions on the potential release of advanced weapons.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense To ensure that National Disclosure Policy Committee (NDPC) members have complete and accurate information in a centralized database that facilitates coordination and decision making on the potential release of advanced weapons and technologies, the Secretary of Defense should direct the NDPC Executive Secretariat to evaluate the accuracy and effectiveness of the upgraded National Disclosure Policy System.
Closed – Implemented
A complete system review was conducted in September 2003, with the NDPC members and recommended modifications having been integrated into the National Disclosure Policy System.
Department of Defense To ensure that NDPC members have complete and accurate information in a centralized database that facilitates coordination and decision making on the potential release of advanced weapons and technologies the Secretary of Defense should direct the NDPC Executive Secretariat to determine with NDPC members the additonal capabilities, such as inclusion of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) risk assessments, needed for the upgraded National Disclosure Policy System.
Closed – Implemented
DOD has added data to the upgraded NDPS and has made user-suggested modifications to the system.
Department of Defense To ensure that NDPC members have complete and accurate information in a centralized database that facilitates coordination and decision making on the potential release of advanced weapons and technologies, the Secretary of Defense should direct the NDPC Executive Secretariat to work with the DOD Policy Automation Directorate to address user comments and technical problems related to the upgraded system as they arise.
Closed – Implemented
DOD indicated that it has conducted a complete system review in September 2003, and has integrated the recommended modifications into its National Disclosure Policy System.
Department of Defense To ensure that useful and timely information is available for making informed release decisions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the NDPC Executive Secretariat to work with CIA to prioritize risk assessments that need to be updated, establish a schedule for performing these assessments, and systematically distribute the assessments to NDPC members through the automated system or other means.
Closed – Implemented
In October 2003, the NDPC Executive Secretariat requested the CIA to update risk assessments for 24 countries. CIA has conducted two of these assessments within the last year and these have been forwarded to the NDPC members.
Department of Defense To ensure that useful and timely information is available for making informed release decisions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the NDPC Executive Secretariat to develop a plan to be used as a business case for determining the appropriate level of resources required to conduct needed security surveys or if a survey cannot be conducted, ensure that an alternative analysis of or information on the foreign government's security capability is made available to NDPC members.
Closed – Not Implemented
DOD contended that its current method of scheduling survey priorities meets the needs of NDPC members, and that establishing a cadre of personnel to conduct security surveys is not a realistic option. DOD further stated that, at current time, there is no known alternative analysis that can be used in lieu of the security surveys.
Department of Defense To ensure that useful and timely information is available for making informed release decisions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the NDPC Executive Secretariat to identify what additional information, such as end-use monitoring reports, would be useful to NDPC members, and establish a mechanism for requesting this information from appropriate sources, and systematically distribute it to NDPC members.
Closed – Not Implemented
DOD stated that one of the NDPC members has access to end-use monitoring reports and considers these reports to be too narrowly focused and not as useful as other information already available to the committee, such as NDPC's security surveys. No other additional information has been identified for systematic distribution to the committee.

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