In controlling the transfer of weapons and related technologies overseas, the U.S. government must limit the possibility of sensitive items falling into the wrong hands while allowing legitimate trade to occur. Achieving this balance, however, has become increasingly difficult due to redefined security threats and an increasingly globalized economy. The export control system is a key government program intended to balance U.S. interests. GAO has identified and reported on many weaknesses and challenges in the export control system. The export control system is a complex system involving multiple departments, laws, and regulations. It is governed primarily by the State Department, which regulates arms exports, and the Commerce Department, which regulates dual-use exports that have both military and civilian applications. GAO has made a number of recommendations aimed at improving the export control system, but many have yet to be implemented. This statement focuses on three key areas: (1) weaknesses and challenges that have created vulnerabilities in the U.S. export control system, (2) inefficiencies in the export licensing process, and (3) State's and Commerce's lack of assessments on the effectiveness of their controls.
Skip to Highlights