Thompson Calls for Arms and Dual-Use Export Investigation

Washington, D.C. — Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Fred Thompson (R-TN) today directed the Inspectors General of six government agencies to conduct an interagency investigation of the licensing process for dual-use items and munitions. The review is a follow up to hearings the Committee held in June, where Dr. Peter Leitner, a Defense Department licensing analyst, provided a troubling assessment of how critical technologies are often exported over the opposition of government analysts trying to protect national security.

“Our June hearing indicated that the current review process appears to be rigged in favor of commercial interests rather than our national security interests, ” said Senator Thompson. “It is time to take an independent, in-depth look at the situation.”

In some instances, as Dr. Leitner explained, critical technologies, including precision machine tools and high performance computers, have been transferred to Russia and China, over the strong objections of Department of Defense analysts. These devices have ended up in foreign facilities that design and build cruise missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and nuclear weapons. In at least one case, Leitner said, his recommendation to deny an export license was changed without his knowledge in the official decisional database.

“Tampering with official databases is a very serious problem. And I am concerned that the licensing process is plagued by other problems as well. At a time when terrorism and nuclear proliferation remind us of how dangerous a place the world is, it is crucial to ensure that the licensing process for exporting sensitive technologies works properly,” remarked Thompson.

The Committee’s request is similar to a 1993 interagency investigation conducted by several Inspectors General. The 1993 study found significant problems in the arms export licensing process, and there appears to have been little follow up to address the IG’s concerns.

“From what we are hearing, the licensing process may indeed have gotten worse, not better since 1993,” Thompson said. “We need to do what it takes to restore the balance between maintaining national security and promoting commerce.”

Thompson’s letter to Inspectors General attached.