Senate Focus on Export Control Enforcement


Wednesday Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), introduced bipartisan legislation intended to improve export controls enforcement.

The Export Controls Enforcement Improvement Act bolsters the Export Enforcement Coordination Center—an interagency hub for information sharing and coordination among the key agencies responsible for export control enforcement.

The Export Controls Enforcement Improvement Act would:

  • Formally establish and promote consistent staffing levels for the Export Enforcement Coordination Center (E2C2).
  • Target and focus enforcement efforts on critical matters for national security:
    • The unlawful transshipment and diversion of exports to China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea; and
    • Sensitive technologies involving semiconductors, artificial intelligence, and quantum technology.
  • Require an assessment of the value of increasing the number of law enforcement officials posted in foreign countries focused on export controls.
  • Support coordination with the private sector to ensure U.S. companies are aware of latest threats and risks of transshipment.

Subcommittee Hearing

As Ranking Member and Chair of the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs (HSGAC) Emerging Threats and Spending Oversight (ETSO) Subcommittee respectively, Senators Romney and Hansen held a hearing Thursday on strengthening the enforcement of export controls and promoting their legislation.

"This Center should be the heartbeat for export controls coordination. Our legislation would help ensure that agencies are talking to each other and working with the private sector and foreign partners to keep sensitive technologies from going to U.S. adversaries, said Sen. Romney.

Witnesses included James Mancuso, Assistant Director, Global Trade and Investigations Division, Homeland Security Investigation, who noted

"We are the envy of the entire world. That also means our adversaries will stop at nothing to obtain this technology in these weapon systems…We are an investigative agency looking at these agencies attempting to disrupt and dismantle the flow of this technology…

"I’m also concerned the day that they don’t want our technology, that day that we aren’t the world leader, because that means that they’ve surpassed us and they’ve become superior. And all of us at this table are laser focused on making sure that day never happens..  

Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the National Security Division Eun Young Choi called for more support from Congress.

"We simply are at our wit’s end when it comes to resourcing and doing the big data analytics. And we know our adversaries are dealing with our data.  We need to be able to do that and be armed to do that. And so I would have that in mind when you’re thinking about resourcing in the FY25.

"One other thing that’s maybe not so obvious but is very important to us is the reauthorization of Section 702. It’s absolutely vital to all of the national security work that we do. But in particular, I think it’s important to highlight that in certain instances we’ve been able to glean insights into illicit transfer of technology and goods to hostile foreign state actors through the use of that particular tool."

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcement Kevin Kurland repeated his fellow witnesses call for resources.

"I’m on the enforcement side but what I can commit to you is that if new actions are taken, we will commit to aggressively enforce those. From our perspective, you know, that requires you know, more analysts, more attachés overseas, more agents that are working with DOJ to bring criminal cases.

"And it gets back to that IT issue as well: better IT systems so that we can create efficiencies to identify these violators and then more quickly be able to bring those cases, whether it’s a criminal case, whether it’s an administrative case, whether it’s an entity listing…But the more resources that we have, the more effective we can be."

Call for Audit

In January, Senators Romney and Hassan sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting an assessment of the Department of Commerce’s export controls restricting advanced semiconductors, semiconductor manufacturing equipment, and related technologies from going to China and other adversaries.  


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