The State and Commerce departments work to release final rules to shift some firearms and related items from the U.S. Munitions List to the Commerce Control List.
The State Department should share watch list information with the Commerce Department if proposed rules to transfer firearms from the U.S. Munitions List (USML) to the Commerce Control List (CCL) finalize, recommended a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released Friday.
While both departments screen parties to licenses against relevant watch lists, Commerce officials don’t have direct access to State’s internal watch list, which contains derogatory information from past screening of licenses for firearms, artillery and ammunition exports, the GAO said.
“Without access to State’s watch list, if the proposed rules are finalized, Commerce may lack critical information needed to effectively screen license applicants for firearms and related exports and target possible cases for end-use monitoring to ensure that these exports are used as intended and by legitimate end users,” the report says.
Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) and the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) in May posted proposed rules to shift certain items from USML categories I (firearms, close assault weapons and combat shotguns); II (guns and armament); and III (ammunition/ordnance) to the CCL.
State and Commerce submitted final rules to the Office of Management and Budget for regulatory review on Nov. 7, according to the GAO report. The executive branch on Feb. 4 triggered a 30-day congressional notification period before proposed USML item removals can take effect, the report says, putting Wednesday as the end of the notification period.
Pending the completion of congressional notification, the Trump administration will publish final rules to transfer oversight for the export of some types of firearms, ammunition and related items from State to Commerce, a State Department official said in an email.
In anticipation of the transfer of items from USML categories I, II and III to the CCL, the two departments are engaged in ongoing discussions to potentially share State’s watch list with Commerce and vice versa, the GAO report said, citing State and Commerce officials.
But as of February, the departments hadn’t reached agreement or established a documented process to share watch list information before implementation of any transfer of items from the USML to CCL, officials told the GAO.
In letters to the GAO, State and Commerce agreed with the GAO’s recommendation for State to share watch list information with Commerce’s licensing review process if USML category I, I, and III items are transferred to the CCL.
Under the forthcoming final rules, firearms and related articles performing an inherently military function will remain under State export licensing controls while export of firearms and related items that don’t provide the U.S. with a critical military advantage — including many articles widely available in U.S. retail outlets — will move to Commerce’s export licensing controls, the State official said.
“Regardless of which Department controls the export, U.S. government authorization will be required for all exports of these firearms and related items,” the official said. “All controlled items will remain subject to export licensing requirements, interagency review and monitoring of commercial entities involved in export and sales.”