A center to enhance information sharing and resolve interagency conflicts in export control cases officially opened Wednesday, along with a separate unit to consolidate data for export licensing, the White House announced.
As part of a broad export reform effort, the Export Enforcement Coordination Center, known as E2C2, brings together regulation and enforcement agencies from seven federal departments with the intelligence community to ensure that investigators can easily share information on export cases.
“We’re here to coordinate and enhance export enforcement efforts — we’re not here to take over,” a senior U.S. government official said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters.
Enforcement is currently fragmented across the FBI, the Bureau of Industry and Security and the Department of Homeland Security, among other law enforcement agencies. Each entity has individual tools and systems to investigate crimes – and without coordination, they can mistakenly run separate investigations for the same offenses.
“You end up with a lot of waste,” a State Department official involved in export reform recently told Main Justice.
Coordinating enforcement controls under a single agency, which the multi-agency center helps to realize, was one of four key reform goals announced in April 2010 by then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
“The coordination of our currently dispersed enforcement resources by one agency will do a great deal to strengthen enforcement, particularly abroad, as well as coordination with the intelligence community,” Gates said in his speech.
The Obama administration began a review of export controls in 2009 in hopes that the badly outdated system could be streamlined. In November 2010, President Obama issued an executive order mandating cooperation between export enforcement agencies.
The export reforms are intended to keep military and sensitive commercial items from restricted buyers and nations while allowing less sensitive items to be freely exported.
Craig Healy from ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations is director of the enforcement center, which will have about 30 employees. Deputy directors will come from the Justice and Commerce Departments.
The center is funded through ICE and has been operating on a smaller scale since Nov. 9 at ICE headquarters. Officials declined to say where the center is now located, though the administration previously said that it was planned to be moved in January to an office in Tysons Corner, Va.
The Bureau of Industry and Security also announced the formal opening of the Information Triage Unit which centralizes intelligence and customer data used by regulators to make export licensing decisions.
Eleven dedicated employees with the cooperation of other employees across the government will staff the unit which is intended to give regulators uniform and efficient access to information.
Export licensing is primarily controlled by the State, Commerce, Treasury Departments, with input from the Defense and Energy Departments. Each has its own set of rules for license approval.
In the past, information has been difficult to share, and regulators themselves have criticized the system for being clumsy and convoluted.
“What has grown up around these processes are stovepipes of information collection that don’t always make it to the in boxes of other agencies,” a senior U.S. government official said Wednesday.
The unit, which is funded through the Commerce Department, is intended to speed up the lengthy licensing process and to make U.S. businesses more competitive globally, the official said.