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State Department’s arms export licensing process “under stress”

State Department’s arms export licensing process “under stress”

State Department’s arms export licensing process “under stress”

A congressional watchdog agency report found the U.S. State Department’s arms export licensing process is “under stress” and suffers from “procedural inefficiencies, electronic processing system shortcomings, and human capital challenges.”

   The U.S. Government Accountability Office noted in a report released this week that the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) faced a 50 percent increase in open arms export cases from about 5,000 in October 2002 to about 7,500 in April 2007, with a high of more than 10,000 cases in September 2006.

   The GAO also found that the DDTC took increasingly longer to refer cases to other federal agencies involved with approving export licenses — from seven days in fiscal 2003 to 20 days the first seven months of fiscal 2007. Even the implementation of an electronic license application system by the DDTC failed to be a “panacea for improving processing times.”

   The GAO report noted: “Through extraordinary measures — such as canceling staff training, meetings, and industry outreach, and pulling available staff from other duties to process cases — DDTC was able to cut the number of open cases by 40 percent in three months.

   “However, such measures are not sustainable in the long term, do not address underlying inefficiencies and problems, and may have negative unintended consequences for the mission,” the GAO warned.

   The State Department agreed with the GAO’s recommendations that it needs to carry out “systematic assessments to identify root causes of increased workload, processing times, and open cases and, in turn, develop sustainable solutions.”

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