Better End-Use Monitoring

SAWG urges the U.S. government to dedicate more energy to monitoring the end-use of U.S.-origin weapons, especially small arms and light weapons. End-use monitoring programs should become more transparent, by increasing reporting on their activities and publicly identifying individuals or companies violating, or attempting to evade, U.S. arms export controls. The U.S. government should also look to new technologies to enable better tracking of exported weapons and disablement of diverted weapons.

Currently, U.S. programs and agencies monitoring end-user compliance focus most of their efforts on exports of sophisticated weapons, spare parts, and dual-use goods. More attention should be paid to the oversight of U.S. transfers of small arms and light weapons. Diversion of these lower-tech weapons can pose threats to U.S. security and innocent civilians overseas, arming terrorists, narco-traffickers, or other criminals. They can also be misused by the intended recipients, fueling conflict or enabling human rights violations. Section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act specifically calls on the President to ensure monitoring of weapons that are "particularly vulnerable to diversion or other misuse." Increased personnel in the Office of Defense Trade Controls and a new end-use monitoring post created in the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) should provide sufficient resources to undertake this task.

End-use monitoring activities undertaken by the Departments of State, Defense, Commerce, Justice, and Treasury and the intelligence agencies should be better coordinated and more transparent. The annual report in the Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations required by Section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act should describe in greater detail the organization, activities and staffing levels of Department of State and Defense offices responsible for monitoring end-user certificate compliance. The activities of other agencies that may be involved in investigating diversions should also be described.

In addition, the U.S. government could use more innovative methods to keep track of exported weapons and to make sure those that are illegally retransferred cannot be used by their new owners. One way the U.S. government could keep track of its exported small arms would be to equip them all with electronic chips that carry the weapon's serial number and other identifying information. The U.S. armed services have already begun to use this system (called Contact Memory Buttons) to help manage inventory more efficiently. By sharing this technology with small arms importers, the U.S. government could help recipients conduct better management of their inventories. Importers, in turn, should provide inventory reports back to the U.S. government to prove compliance with their obligation not to retransfer weapons without prior U.S. permission. The inventory management system could also be used to make sure U.S. weapons caches stored in the U.S. and overseas are not subject to theft.

If weapons are diverted, the U.S. government could prevent their long-term use by taking advantage of emerging personalization technology being developed for the U.S. commercial market. The weapons could have chips that would only work when in proximity to a radio emission. Or, in order to allow the weapons to be used by a larger group of soldiers, they could be implanted with a system that would require insertion of a code (or other enabling device) on a yearly basis. Importers would also benefit by knowing that in the case of theft, the weapons could not be used against them.

For More Information:

Tamar Gabelnick
Director, Arms Sales Monitoring Project
Federation of American Scientists
1717 K St., NW, Suite 209
Washington, DC 20036
Telephone: (202) 454-4694
Fax: (202) 675-1010
Email: tamarg@fas.org
Rachel Stohl
Senior Analyst
Center for Defense Information
1779 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20036
Telephone: (202) 797-5283
Fax: (202) 462-4559
Email: rstohl@cdi.org

The Small Arms Working Group (SAWG) is an alliance of U.S.-based non-governmental organizations working together to promote change in U.S. policies on small arms. SAWG members believe that small arms proliferation must be countered by more responsible policies on legal sales and international cooperation to reduce illicit trafficking.