GAO Report Criticizes DDTC License Processing Times

On January 3, 2008, the U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO) released a report (dated November 2007) entitled, "State Department Needs to Conduct Assessments to Identify and Address Inefficiencies and Challenges in the Arms Export Process." In 2005, GAO reported that processing times for arms export cases had increased despite State Department efforts to streamline its process. GAO was asked to (1) describe recent trends in the processing of arms export cases and (2) identify factors that have contributed to these trends. A summary of the report can be found here and highlights of the report can be found here.

For this report, GAO analyzed State arms export case data for fiscal year 2003 through April 30, 2007; reviewed relevant laws, regulations, and guidelines, Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) funding and staffing information, and interviewed State and Department of Defense officials and selected arms exporters.

GAO found three key trends that indicate that DDTC's licensing process is under stress. First, the number of cases processed by DDTC increased 20% between fiscal years 2003 and 2006. Second, during the same period, median processing times almost doubled. Third, the number of open arms export cases increased 50% 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.

GAO is recommending that State conduct systematic analyses to help achieve efficiencies in the processing of arms export cases. State concurred with GAO's recommendations.