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Tag: transparency

By Colby Goodman

This post first appeared in the March 2020 edition of The Export Practitioner

 

Sometimes good intentions are just good intentions. In the push for major changes to the U.S. arms export control system from 2010-13, the Obama administration often said the U.S. government was not effectively preventing harmful arms exports. One major culprit was “an overly broad definition of what should be subject to export classification and control,” according to then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Placing “higher walls around fewer, more critical items” would solve the problem. Seven years later, however, there are serious questions about whether there are higher walls around military technologies important in modern warfare.

Push for Higher Walls

Gates’s concern about the overly broad definition of arms was based on his time as deputy director for intelligence at the Central Intelligence Agency. In his April 20, 2010, speech, Gates said, “it soon became apparent that the length of the list of controlled technologies outstripped our finite intelligence monitoring capabilities and resources. It had the effect of undercutting our efforts to control the critical items.”

A few State officials also told me at the time that they had been requested to do investigations (post-export end-use checks) on U.S.-approved exports of items such as washers for certain weapons systems, which they thought was a waste of time.

The Obama administration in fact frequently stated that the U.S. arms export control system was harmful because “we devote[d] the same resources to protecting M1A1 tank brake pads as we do to protecting the M1A1 tank itself.”

According to Gates, “many parts and components of a major piece of defense equipment – such as a combat vehicle or aircraft – require their own export licenses. It makes little sense to use the same lengthy process to control the export of every latch, wire, and lug nut for a piece of equipment like the F-16, when we have already approved the export of the whole aircraft.” Instead, the U.S. government should focus on the five percent of cases that are riskier.

While the administration often exaggerated these points – M1A1 tanks had always received much more vetting than their brake pads – many parts and components did require a separate license. In 2011, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) also published a report that highlighted clear gaps in State post-export end-use checks for sensitive night vision goggles to countries in the Middle East.

In response, the Obama administration led an effort to move an estimated 30,000 munitions-related items from State’s more strictly controlled U.S. Munitions List (USML) to Commerce’s more loosely controlled Commerce Control List (CCL). This effort included up to 90 percent of the items controlled under the USML’s military vehicle category.

For the military aircraft category, “missile launchers, radar warning receivers, and laser/missile warning systems” would continue to be controlled under the USML. However, items such as F-16 wings, rudders, fuel tanks, and landing gear would move to the CCL. The administration would also move some items formerly classified as significant military equipment.

But, did the Obama administration simultaneously elevate reviews or checks on key U.S. military technologies that stayed on the USML? It certainly was not enough for the Obama administration to just move tens of thousands of munitions off the USML. There was also a risk that the move would likely result in a dip in State revenue and personnel for examining arms exports.

Gaps in Implementation

In a recently published report entitled Holes in the Net: U.S. Arms Export Control Gaps in Combatting Corruption, I argue that there are a number of gaps in State’s efforts to place higher walls around arms on the USML. These gaps are in State’s Directorate for Defense Trade Control’s (DDTC) basic review of arms export licenses and in their more detailed pre- and post-export end-use checks. The problems appear to have been widened under the Trump administration.

In July 2018, for instance, State’s Inspector General (IG) found several weaknesses in the way DDTC reviews arms export applications in an audit. Specifically, the IG found that DDTC had “approved 20 of the 21 applications (95 percent) [IG] reviewed despite lacking required information…” (see The Export Practitioner, March 2019, page 15).

In eight cases, the IG found inconsistencies within the application on the quantities, types of arms, or values, which are indicators of a possible diversion of U.S. weapons or bribery. The IG audit also found 17 cases in which DDTC should have notified Congress for additional scrutiny, but DDTC did not.

State is no longer increasing the number of its end-use checks in a year. In the department’s annual report on end-use checks for fiscal year (FY) 2016, DDTC said there was an increase in the percentage of end-use checks they initiated compared to the total export applications for the year from 1.3 percent in FY 2015 to 1.75 percent in FY 2016.

DDTC seemed to indicate that this increase showed it was beginning to elevate its reviews of more sensitive military items. However, the most recent end-use report for FY 2018 under the Trump administration shows a drop in the percentage of end-use checks to 1.3 percent, which is similar to percentage levels before the reform started.

There are also some key gaps in the way DDTC conducts its end-use checks. In 2016, State developed a new framework for reviewing arms sales, which recommend asking several key questions about corruption. These questions include whether or not the intended recipient of U.S. arms is “permitting illicit trafficking across borders, buying and selling positions or professional opportunities, stealing government assets and resources, engaging in bribery, or maintaining rolls of ghost personnel.” However, DDTC does not regularly look at the above defense sector corruption indicators when conducting its pre-export end-use checks.

It also appears there have been some challenges with DDTC’s post-export end-use checks. In the department IG’s audit of DDTC in 2018, they noted serious delays, from 77 to 300 days, in conducting post-export end-use checks. In FY 2018, DDTC had also only conducted around nine pre- or post-export end-use checks for all arms exports to the Middle East and North Africa despite the ongoing risks of diversion in the region.

What could be done to elevate State checks on key military technologies and weapons systems? DDTC has said one of the key reasons for some of the above gaps has been staff turnover and an overall staff reduction. DDTC told the department’s IG that its licensing office had a 28 percent reduction in staffing as of July 2018, and some licensing officers were finding it difficult to keep up with their workload. Staff turnover also made it difficult for DDTC to conduct end-use checks in the Middle East in FY 2018.

Fixing the Gaps

While DDTC has hired some staff to help address the gaps in end-use checks for the Middle East, they still have not been able to add enough staff to address all of the above concerns. The Trump administration’s hiring freeze and reductions in State funding have also impacted DDTC’s efforts to hire new staff. Congress, however, could address this gap by elevating funding for DDTC personnel, which would also help speed up DDTC’s review of arms export applications generally.

It also appears that the Trump administration’s focus on increasing the number of U.S. arms sales to key U.S. partners and allies around the world has impacted some State focus on enhancing risk assessments. There, however, are continuing efforts to enhance these risk assessments at State, including related to defense sector corruption indicators.

In some ways, Gates was right when he said there was a need to place higher walls around key U.S. military technologies and weapons systems to prevent them from reaching the wrong hands. If the United States does want to make good on one of its initial reasons for the reform, there are still opportunities to do so. Without these improvements, however, the United States will be back where it started at the beginning of the reform, not effectively preventing harmful arms exports.

 

(c) 2020 Gilston-Kalin Communications LLC. Reprinted with permission.

Transparency International Defence & Security would like to announce the initial phase of the 2019 edition of the Defence Companies Anti-Corruption Index (DCI).

Update: Following a thorough review of the company feedback, we will now begin the assessments in May 2019 to account for company reporting periods.

What is the Defence Companies Anti-Corruption Index (DCI)?

The DCI sets standards for transparency, accountability and anti-corruption programmes in the defence sector. By analysing what companies are publicly committing to in terms of their openness, policies and procedures, we seek to drive reform in the sector, reducing corruption and its impact. The DCI will assess 145 of the world’s leading defence companies across 39 countries. The Index was first published in 2012 with a second edition in 2015, and the latest edition is set to be published in 2019.

The upcoming index will apply a revised methodology and will include some key differences from previous editions. The draft Questionnaire and Model Answer document can be found here.

The 2015 DCI can be found here.

How will the 2019 Index be different?

After a comprehensive review, the new DCI assessment has evolved and should be read alongside our recent report ‘Out of the Shadows: Promoting Openness and Accountability in the Global Defence Industry’ – which provides greater insight into the theory behind our methodology. Based on consultations with anti-corruption and defence experts, TI DS have identified ten key areas where higher anti-corruption standards and improved disclosure can reduce the opportunity for corruption.

In one the most significant changes to the methodology, TI DS will this year base the research only on what companies choose to make publicly available. The decision to exclude internal information from the evaluation reflects our increased focus on transparency, public disclosure of information, incident response and the practical implementation of anti-bribery and corruption programmes.

How have companies been selected?

Companies for the 2019 DCI have been selected on the basis that:

  • The company features in the 2016 edition of SIPRI’s Top 100 Arms-Producing and Military Services companies.
  • The company features in the 2016 edition of Defence Industry Weekly’s Top 100 defence companies.
  • The company is the largest national defence company headquartered in a country exporting at least £10 million, as identified by SIPRI.

To see the list of companies selected for assessment in 2019, click here.

How will data on companies be collected?

Our assessment of a company’s individual anti-bribery and corruption record is based entirely on publicly available information. In particular, we will review the company’s website, including any available reports, for evidence of robust anti-corruption systems, as well as any functioning hyperlinks to other relevant online materials. In reviewing your company’s materials, we will assess the completeness and accessibility of the information, in particular:

  • The amount of information a company publishes about its internal anti-corruption programmes, incident response systems and interactions with third parties;
  • Evidence that these systems are used by employees and made available to all employees;
  • Evidence that the company monitors and reviews its anti-bribery and corruption processes.

Researchers from TI DS will conduct assessments of each company’s public information starting in May 2019, giving companies an opportunity to make any alterations to their publicly available information before the research process begins. The initial results will be shared with your company, after which you will have the opportunity to review the initial findings and suggest any corrections. The final assessments will be published on our website.

Where can I find the assessment criteria?

A draft version of the 2019 Questionnaire and Model Answer document is available here. Companies, governments, and civil society alike were invited to provide feedback on the methodology. To view an anonymised version of this feedback, click here. 

We are currently reviewing this feedback and aim to publish a final version of the Question and Model Answer document by early February 2019.

Our recent report ‘Out of the Shadows: Promoting Openness and Accountability in the Global Defence Industry’ provides greater insight into the theory behind the changes to the 2019 methodology.

What is the timeline for the Index?

The draft questions and model answers for the 2019 assessments are now available at staging.clearhonestdesign.com/tids/dci.

We are currently reviewing the feedback received from companies, industry bodies and subject-matter experts and we will aim to publish a final version of the Question and Model Answer document early February 2019. Research will begin in May 2019 once companies have had some time to make improvements, should they wish to.

What do companies have to do next?

We are currently reviewing the feedback received from companies, industry bodies and subject-matter experts and we will aim to publish a final version of the Question and Model Answer document early February 2019. Research will begin in May 2019 once companies have had some time to make improvements, should they wish to.

Will we have an opportunity to give feedback on the methodology before the assessments start?

Yes – companies, industry groups and experts were able to provide feedback during a dedicated consultation period in November 2018. A document containing the entirety of this feedback in the form that it was submitted, with company names anonymised, is now available here.

Feedback is welcome from all users of the index including governments, civil society, journalists and companies.

Resources

Nigeria: More spent on security votes per year than Army budget
Civil society groups call for scrapping of secretive security vote spending

28th May 2018, London/ Abuja – Ahead of the 2019 Presidential elections in Nigeria, Transparency International and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC) are calling on candidates to commit to scrapping the unaccountable and secretive “security vote” spending – one of the most durable forms of corruption in Nigeria—saying that they fail to provide real security for citizens.

“Camouflaged Cash”, a new report launched today by the groups, estimates that security votes in Nigeria total around $670 million annually – more than the annual budget of the Nigerian Army. This amount dwarfs the US security assistance to Nigeria since 2012 and UK counter terrorism support promised from 2016-2020.

Security votes, used by successive governments since 1999, are opaque funds that are disbursed at the discretion of public officials, very often transacted in cash, without being subject to oversight or independent audit. In theory they are designed to cover unforeseen security needs but in reality many have become slush funds for corrupt officials.

As well as undermining Nigeria’s fight against corruption, the misuse of these funds is fuelling instability. By prioritising security vote spending, less funding is available for Nigerian forces to pay salaries or procure needed supplies, leaving them underequipped to fight Boko Haram. They also offer major potential sources of funding to tilt political campaigns, stoking tensions at a critical time.

Katherine Dixon, Director of Transparency International Defence & Security said:

“The security vote is one of the most durable forms of corruption operating in Nigeria today. Yet instead of addressing its many urgent threats, the ever-increasing use of security votes is providing corrupt officials with an easy-to-use and entirely hidden slush fund.”

“Corruption in the crucial sector of defence and security plays right into the hands of those who seek to sow the seeds of instability and terror. It leaves armed forces under-resourced in the fight against Boko Haram and feeds groups who may destabilize the elections.”

Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, Executive Director Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center, said:

“We are calling on all candidates for the coming election to agree to phase out this secretive and dated form of spending. Growing insecurity at a time when security vote spending has increased shows that it serves no positive purpose in keeping Nigerian citizens safe. Any candidates serious about fighting corruption in Nigeria will recognise the need to urgently address the problem of security votes.”

“Ahead of our National Democracy Day a strong commitment from public officials against security votes would help the growing understanding that combatting corruption is a vital element of any serious democratic society.”

Transparency International Defence & Security and CISLAC recommends the Nigerian government:

  • Pass federal legislation outlawing security votes at all levels, to be accompanied by legislation specifying budgeting procedures and criteria for security expenditure.
  • Establish effective oversight structures to ensure existing spending is appropriate.
  • Educate its officials, security leaders and the general public about the risks of using security votes.
  • Support state governments to set up Security Trust Funds as a constructive first step to phasing out security votes.

Key stats and findings from Camouflaged Cash include:

  • $670 million spent on security votes per year
    • More than the annual budget of the Nigerian Army
    • More than the annual budget of the Nigerian Air Force and Navy combined
    • More than 70% of the annual budget of the Nigerian Police Force
    • More than nine times the US security assistance since 2012
    • More than 12 times the UK counterterrorism support for 2016 – 2020
  • 29 Nigerian states receive an average total of $580 million through security votes each year
  • $5 million – increase in security vote spending between 2016 and 2018
  • $15 billion – estimated amount stolen from Nigeria’s defence sector of by former military chiefs

***ENDS***

View the full report here.

Contact:
Dominic Kavakeb
+44 20 3096 7695
+44 79 6456 0340
[email protected]
Transparency International Defence and Security (TI-DS) works to reduce corruption in defence and security worldwide.

Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) is a non-governmental, non-profit, advocacy, information sharing, research, and capacity building organisation. Its purpose is to strengthen the link between civil society and the legislature through advocacy and capacity building for civil society groups and policy makers on legislative processes and governance issues.