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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > Bureau of Political-Military Affairs > Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Releases > Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Fact Sheets > Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Fact Sheets (2008) 
Fact Sheet
Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
Washington, DC
January 4, 2008

GAO Report on Inefficiencies and Challenges in the Arms Export Process

The Department of State worked closely with the Government Accountability Office in its review of the arms export licensing process. The Department largely concurs with the overall GAO recommendations, but notes that because the GAO study used data available through April 2007, it does not reflect the many steps that have been taken to improve processes since that time.

Open Cases: The number of pending export license applications has declined substantially. At the time of the GAO study the number of cases in process was an unacceptably high 7,500. As of January 4, 2008 the number of open cases is approximately 4,300, a 43% reduction. This number has remained below 5,000 since November 2007. The Directorate of Defense Trade Controls receives anywhere from 1,000 to 1,300 new applications per week. Therefore, at any given time there will be several thousand cases in the review process.

Internal Processing: The Directorate of Defense Trade Controls has implemented a procedure where any case over 60 days old must be reviewed by a Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS). Cases are not allowed to languish – there must be a justification for cases that require more time.

Processing Times: The average processing time for licenses and agreements has continued to decline since June 2007, when many internal changes were implemented. For cases that require referral to other agencies for review the average processing time is 39 days, and 24 days for cases that do not require referral. A complete breakdown of license processing times is available on the DDTC website (

Licensing the export of defense articles and services is an important component of building partnership capacity to fight the war on terrorism. Defense Trade is a high Department priority, and has the personal attention of senior officials such as Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security John Rood and Acting Assistant Secretary for Political Military Affairs Stephen Mull. The Department of State continues its efforts to provide reliable and timely processing of export licenses while ensuring that U.S. national security and foreign policy interests are protected. The Administration has taken additional steps, such as the negotiation of Treaties with the United Kingdom and Australia, and the recent publication of changes in the licensing for third-country national employees who are citizens of NATO and EU member states, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Switzerland.

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