Congress lacks æcomplete pictureÆ of U.S. defense exports
A congressional watchdog agency's report concluded Capitol Hill lawmakers lack a 'complete picture' of U.S. defense exports under current reporting by the State and Defense departments.
According to the Government Accountability Office's research, U.S. exports of defense items, such as military aircraft, firearms and explosives, and services ranged from about $19 billion to $22 billion a year from 2005 to 2009.
About 60 percent of these items are exported by companies overseas under the direct commercial sales (DCS) program, while the remaining 40 percent are exported under the foreign military sales (FMS) program. The largest category of defense exports are aircraft parts (44 percent) followed by satellites, communications and electronics equipment and their related parts. Exports of defense services generally include technical assistance and training.
U.S. defense items are generally shipped to a few countries, including Japan, United Kingdom, Israel, South Korea, Australia, Egypt and United Arab Emirates.
However, GAO found 'several information gaps and inconsistencies' in the data systems and reporting methodologies for these exports between State and Defense.
For example, State does not obtain data from U.S. companies on the export of defense services under DCS licenses, although it authorizes several billion dollars of these exports annually. State officials told the GAO that they do not have a requirement to collect this information and doing so would place a burden on exporters.
Other limitations pointed out by GAO's report include differences in the agencies' item and country categories and the inability to separate data on some permanent and temporary exports.
'These differences and limitations may inhibit congressional oversight and transparency into the entirety of U.S. defense exports,' GAO warned.
GAO advises Congress to consider whether it needs specific data on exported defense services and recommends that State publicly report consolidated defense export data on DCS and FMS in a consistent way.
'In the absence of additional direction and resources from Congress, State did not agree' with the report's findings, while GAO 'believes the recommendation remains valid.' ' Chris Gillis