Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Reform Act of 2008

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. Speaker, this legislation includes the text of H.R. 4246, the Defense Trade

Controls Improvement Act of 2008, which was introduced by myself and Mr. Manzullo, and it is Title I, subtitle A of this bill.

This subtitle grew out of hearings in our subcommittee, the Subcommittee on Terrorism Nonproliferation and Trade, which were held last July. I want to thank Chairman Berman for including the revised text of H.R. 4246 into this larger piece of legislation. I want to thank Mr. Manzullo for his efforts in crafting our original legislation, and I want to thank Mr. Ed Royce, ranking member of the Subcommittee on Terrorism Nonproliferation and Trade, for his work as well.

The Defense Trade Controls Improvement Act, which is part of this larger legislation, seeks to address past performance failings and, most importantly, understaffing of the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls, the State Department agency responsible for adjudicating licenses for commercial arms sales. This agency was found to have more than 10,000 open cases at the end of 2006. Only an unsustainable winter offensive where leaves were canceled and overtime was made mandatory and people were moved in from other areas allowed this agency to reduce this huge backlog. Licenses had languished for months, not because they raised significant national security or foreign policy concerns in most cases, but because they simply sat in someone's in box unattended.

Why has the State Department consistently underfunded and understaffed the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls? I believe that there is simply an institutional bias in the State Department toward work that is more highbrow, more likely to be the subject of a seminar at the Woodrow Wilson's School of Diplomacy. But this work, the work of licensing munitions exports, is of critical importance; arguably there is nothing more important done by the State Department. And Congress provides typically over $1 billion to the relevant account which can be used by the State Department for a whole variety of staffing, yet they have consistently understaffed this very important function.

What the bill will do is basically add a couple of dozen licensing officers and avoid this tendency of the State Department to understaff the portion of the State Department which licenses munitions exports.

Why is this licensing process so important? Well, if we say ``yes'' and issue a license and make the wrong decision, the harm is obvious. We have sent the wrong technology to the wrong country which may hurt our military or the military of our allies in the future. But there is also enormous harm if we unduly delay or wrongfully deny an application. It means we lose jobs in the United States; it means our interoperability with our allies is diminished because they won't have American munitions and therefore, won't be able to operate as effectively with our military as they could; it can rupture or hurt our relationship with allies if we wrongfully do not export or unduly delay their request to purchase American munitions, and perhaps most importantly, when we don't act quickly and people in other countries buy their munitions elsewhere, we are building the munitions industry of other countries.

And what is the effect of that? More lost jobs for the United States, more losses on interoperability, and most of all, an undercutting of our policy objectives because once those munitions industries are well established in other countries, they will not be subject to any U.S.-State Department oversight and they may export to third countries things that we would not.

So right now the relevant State Department agency has roughly 40 licensing officers available to adjudicate 85,000 cases expected to be received this year. This bill will beef up the staffing by the third quarter of fiscal year 2010 so that there will be one licensing officer for every 1,250 applications that are based on what we anticipate to be the workload that year.

That is to say, we will go from roughly 40 licensing officers to roughly 68 licensing officers. This is hardly overstaffing.

The Department of Commerce performs a similar function with regard, not to munitions, but rather, dual-use exports. The relevant part of the Department of Commerce deals with one-third as many applications that has five times the staffing. Clearly, we need those 68 licensing officers at the State Department.

This bill also requires a complete strategic review of our arms export control system, a policy review that has not occurred since 9/11.

The bill codifies the administration directives with respect to processing times for licenses with respect to export of hardware to our allies. Our exporters will have reasonable assurance that licenses will be adjudicated, not necessarily approved, but adjudicated within 60 days unless there are extenuating circumstances.


This bill does not include any provisions clarifying the jurisdiction over civilian aircraft parts since the State Department has issued a proposed rule, designed to provide a bright line for those decisions.

Finally, I would like to note that improvement in the operations of the State Department office have already occurred, in part in response to the hearings we held in July of 2007.

I hope this bill will further improve our licensing process. It is not for us to tell the State Department that they need to have one licensing officer for every 1,250 applications is not being overly assertive. When we provide over $1 billion to the relevant account, we ought to provide some guidance as to how that money should be spent.

I thank the gentleman for including our provisions in the larger bill.

Skip to top

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.

Back to top