Export Controls: Challenges Exist in Enforcement of an Inherently Complex System: GAO-07-265

Calvaresi-Barr, Ann
December 2006
GAO Reports;12/20/2006, p1
Government Document
Each year, billions of dollars in dual-use items--items that have both commercial and military applications--as well as defense items are exported from the United States. To protect U.S. interests, the U.S. government controls the export of these items. A key function in the U.S. export control system is enforcement, which aims to prevent or deter the illegal export of controlled items. This report describes the roles, responsibilities, and authorities of export control enforcement agencies, identifies the challenges these agencies face, and determines if information on enforcement outcomes is provided to the export control agencies. GAO's findings are based on an examination of statutes, interagency agreements, and procedures; interviews with enforcement officials at selected field locations and headquarters; and an assessment of enforcement information. The enforcement of export control laws and regulations is inherently complex, involving multiple agencies with varying roles, responsibilities, and authorities. The agencies within the Departments of Commerce, Homeland Security, Justice, and State that are responsible for export control enforcement conduct a variety of activities, including inspecting items to be exported, investigating potential export control violations, and pursuing and imposing appropriate penalties and fines against violators. These agencies' enforcement authorities are granted through a complex set of laws and regulations, which give concurrent jurisdiction to multiple agencies to conduct investigations. Enforcement agencies face several challenges in enforcing export control laws and regulations. For example, agencies have had difficulty coordinating investigations and agreeing on how to proceed on cases. Coordination and cooperation often hinge on the relationships individual investigators across agencies have developed. Other challenges include obtaining timely and complete information to determine whether violations have occurred and enforcement actions should be pursued, and the difficulty in balancing multiple priorities and leveraging finite human resources. Each enforcement agency has a database to capture information on its enforcement activities. However, outcomes of criminal cases are not systematically shared with State and Commerce, the principal export control agencies. State and Commerce may deny license applications or export privileges of indicted or convicted export violators. Without information on the outcomes of criminal cases, export control agencies cannot gain a complete picture of an individual or a company seeking export licenses or discover trends in illegal export activities. This report is a publicly releasable version of a law enforcement sensitive report we issued on November 15, 2006. Therefore, some examples that involved law enforcement techniques or methods and that support our findings have been removed from this version.


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