GOVERNMENTAL supervision and control of the export trade in arms is a new development in American foreign policy. Formerly resorted to only in exceptional circumstances and on a restricted scale, it has now become a regular and continuing function of the Federal Government. Established by the Neutrality Act of August 31, 1935, it has been in operation long enough to make possible a survey of the methods by which it is administered and some indication of its usefulness to the Government in the conduct of foreign relations.

The international traffic in arms, ammunition, and implements of war has definite political implications which differentiate it from ordinary commerce between nations. Every shipment of arms from one country to another is a transaction which may affect international relations and the peace of the world. Realizing these facts, the Government of the United States has since the World War taken a leading part in efforts to negotiate effective international conventions for the regulation of the international traffic in arms. These efforts have so far been unsuccessful, and such regulation of the traffic as now exists results for the most part not from international agreements but from national legislation.

Although the negotiation of an arms traffic convention has for many years been a definite aim of American foreign policy, the United States in its domestic legislation lagged far behind most of the other important nations. Various measures designed to give the Executive some measure of supervision and control over the export of arms were introduced in Congress during the years 1921-34; but, with the exception of two, which were restricted in scope and of limited application, they failed of enactment.[i]

In 1935 there was introduced in both Houses a bill which had the support of the Administration. Its purposes, as explained by a representative of the Department of State who was called to testify before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, were threefold: first, to enable the Executive branch of the Government, the Congress, and the public to obtain accurate information in regard to American participation in the international traffic in arms; second, to enable the Executive to enforce effectively the restrictions on the exportation of arms already in effect under existing statutes or which might be enacted in the future; and third, to enable the Government to carry out its international obligations should the Convention for the Supervision of the International Trade in Arms and Ammunition and in Implements of War (signed at Geneva on June 17, 1925, and ratified by the President on June 21, 1935) become effective through ratification by the stipulated number of signatories.

The lack of accurate current information in regard to American exports of arms had often proved an embarrassment to the Department of State in dealing with questions relating to the arms traffic. The Department had urgent need of the information which the enactment of this bill would enable it to obtain. Congress had need of the same information in order that it might consider legislation in this field in the light of full knowledge of the facts. Furthermore, it was felt by the Administration that the light of publicity should be thrown upon the traffic in arms. The American people were entitled to information which might be of such vital importance to the nation, and moreover, the publication of this information might serve to correct some of the false impressions in regard to the arms industry in the United States which had resulted from exaggerated and sensational reports current when the bill was under discussion.

The executive branch of the Government had experienced great difficulty in administering the restrictions on the exportation of arms which were at that time in effect under Presidential Proclamations issued pursuant to the Joint Resolutions of January 31, 1922, and May 28, 1934. Under the former Joint Resolution, the President had been authorized to place restrictions upon the exportation of arms to countries in the Western Hemisphere, or to countries in which the United States exercises extraterritorial jurisdiction when conditions of domestic violence existed in those countries. Under the latter, he had been authorized to prohibit the sale of arms to Bolivia and Paraguay, at that time engaged in war in the Chaco. Some exporters of arms were known to have resorted to indirect shipments, falsification of labels and inaccurate statements in customs documents, in order to evade or violate these restrictions. In the absence of a general system of licenses for the export of arms, the Department of State, charged with the issuance of licenses for the export of arms destined to countries in respect to which Presidential Proclamations were in effect, and the Treasury Department, charged with the actual supervision of exports through the agency of the customs officers, found it impossible to prevent such evasions and violations of the law; and the Department of Justice encountered great difficulty in prosecuting offenders. Alleged violations of the Chaco Arms Embargo had already caused public scandal.

In the summer of 1935 there seemed to be at least a possibility that the Arms Traffic Convention of 1925 might be ratified by a sufficient number of Powers to make it operative, or that it would be replaced by the Draft Convention which was at that time under discussion in the General Disarmament Conference in Geneva. In the absence of such authority as the bill proposed to confer upon the Executive, the Government of the United States, which had taken a leading part in the negotiation of the Convention of 1925 and which was actively engaged in urging agreement upon the new draft convention, would have been unable to carry out its obligations under either of them.

The bill was carefully considered by the Special Committee of the Senate Investigating the Munitions Industry, by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and by the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House. The arms manufacturers who had so vociferously and effectively opposed much less drastic legislative proposals in the past were, in 1935, in a chastened mood. None of them opposed the bill and the most prominent among them actually issued a public statement in which he advocated the enactment of such legislation. With slight and unimportant modifications, the bill was incorporated by the Committee on Foreign Relations in a Joint Resolution introduced in the Senate on August 20, 1935. As Section 2 of that Joint Resolution -- commonly referred to as the Neutrality Act -- it was passed by both Houses after brief debate, and approved by the President on August 31. Section 2 of the Neutrality Act of 1935 was reënacted with a few amendments, suggested by experience in its administration, as Section 5 of the Neutrality Act of May 1, 1937.

The system of supervision and control of the traffic in arms which was thus established is comparatively simple. It places no great burden upon the Government or upon the industry. It is administered by the Secretary of State as Chairman and Executive Officer of the National Munitions Control Board, which is composed of the Secretaries of State, the Treasury, War, the Navy, and Commerce. With two important exceptions, the functions of the Board are purely advisory. The responsibility for dayto-day decisions rests exclusively upon the Chairman. All manufacturers, exporters and importers of arms, ammunition, and implements of war are required to register with the Secretary of State and to pay a registration fee; every individual shipment of arms, ammunition, or implements of war exported or imported must be authorized by a license; and the Board must make an annual report to Congress containing full information in regard to certificates of registration and licenses issued.

The duties of the Department of State relating to the international traffic in arms had been increasing in volume and complexity during the years immediately preceding the passage of the Neutrality Act of 1935, and the new duties and responsibilities devolving upon the Department as a result of the passage of that Act made necessary the creation of a new unit within the Department. In September 1935 the Secretary issued a Departmental Order establishing an Office of Arms and Munitions Control. The Chief of that Office was elected Executive Secretary of the National Munitions Control Board.

The first duty of the Board under the law was to agree upon and recommend to the President a list of the articles which should be considered arms, ammunition, and implements of war for the purposes of Section 2 of the Neutrality Act. The Board met and made its recommendation on September 24 and the President proclaimed the list on the following day.

This list was the result of careful study by officials of the Departments represented on the Board and its preparation was a complicated and difficult task. "Arms, ammunition, and implements of war" is not an easy term to define. In addition to many questions of a purely technical nature, the drawing up of a list of articles to be considered for legal purposes as "arms, ammunition, and implements of war" involves a decision on a major question of primary importance. To what extent should such a list include articles which are used for military purposes but have commercial or other non-military uses as well, and what criterion is to be adopted in making a selection among such articles? When the Neutrality Bill was under discussion in the Senate, a senator had asked the question whether "arms, ammunition, and implements of war" could be held to include raw materials. The Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, who was in charge of the bill, replied in the negative, stating that the term was intended to designate such articles as those listed in the Arms Traffic Convention of 1925.

The intent of Congress was, therefore, clear, and as the meaning of the term as explained by the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations accorded fully with the meaning which it had acquired in international usage, there was no doubt as to the general nature of the list which the Board was called upon to draw up. Nevertheless, these general directives fell far short of a definite solution of the problem with which the Board was confronted. For the purposes of the law a 14-inch gun was obviously an arm, and a battleship was obviously an implement of war, but was T.N.T., which is used both for military purposes and for ordinary blasting, to be classified as ammunition? Was chlorine, which is chiefly used for the purification of water supplies and which is exported in large quantities from the United States for that purpose, to be classified as an implement of war because of its possible use in warfare as a lethal gas? Were rifle cartridges for military use to be distinguished from cartridges of the same caliber for sporting purposes? What of automobiles, trucks, dynamite, shot guns, .22 caliber rifles? These and innumerable similar questions had to be decided. But the most important and difficult question of all was: Should airplanes and airplane engines be considered implements of war, or should an attempt be made to distinguish among them on some such basis as their design or the use to which they would, in any given case, presumably be put?

In general, the Board solved these questions by omitting from the list articles which were not exclusively or primarily of a military character. Even so, the terms by which the arms, ammunition, and implements of war were described sometimes necessarily included articles which would not have been included had this criterion been rigidly followed. But aircraft of all kinds, aircraft engines, and some of the major component parts of airplanes were explicitly included in the Board's enumeration of implements of war. The decision of the Board in respect to aircraft was its only decision in connection with the defining of arms, ammunition, and implements of war which gave rise to any widespread criticism. In its First Annual Report the Board explained its decision at some length, citing numerous examples to demonstrate the administrative impossibility of distinguishing, for the purposes of the Neutrality Act, between civil and military aircraft. This decision has apparently been accepted as conclusive.

In drawing up the list, the Board had also to consider questions of a purely administrative character. An effort was made to designate the articles so clearly that collectors of customs could be left in no doubt as to whether any particular shipment required an export license. Such expressions as "small arms ammunition for military use" were avoided, as the experience of the Department of State, in administering the restrictions on the exportation of arms already in effect, had demonstrated that collectors of customs could not be expected to interpret such an expression when called upon to deal with consignments of cartridges. Such general expressions as "component parts" were avoided because the standardization of mechanical parts is such that collectors of customs could not possibly be expected to distinguish some of the parts of a machine gun or of an airplane engine, for example, from the parts of a typewriter or of an automobile.

The definition of arms, ammunition, and implements of war contained in the Convention of 1925 had been the result of long negotiation and of compromise among conflicting views. In the absence of any other definition of equal authority, it had for a time received more or less general acceptance, but by 1935 it had become antiquated. Various definitions drawn up in various countries for purposes of domestic legislation differed radically from it. The Department of State had altered its definition from time to time in a constant endeavor to find one which would suit its purposes. All in all, the most satisfactory definition and the one which seemed to the Board to require the least modification to make it suitable for use in connection with the licensing provisions of the Neutrality Act, was that contained in the Draft Text of a Convention for the Regulation of the Trade in and Private and State Manufacture of Arms and Implements of War, prepared by a Committee of the General Disarmament Conference which issued its report on April 12, 1935. With reservations on questions of detail by the delegations of Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Soviet Union, and a general reservation by the Japanese delegation, this definition had been agreed to by the representatives of all the Powers represented in the Conference. In its original form, it had been proposed by the American delegation, and the discussions in the Committee for the Regulation of the Trade in and Private and State Manufacture of Arms and Implements of War had not altered it in any essential respect. The National Munitions Control Board adopted this definition with few modifications, and although the President, on the recommendation of the Board, introduced still further modifications in his Proclamations of April 10, 1936, and May 1, 1937, it is still essentially the definition which was proposed to the General Disarmament Conference by the American delegates in 1934.

For reasons relating to the provisions of the Draft Convention, the arms, ammunition, and implements of war enumerated in that document were divided into five categories. The reasons for this division into categories were entirely extraneous to the purposes of the Neutrality Act; but nevertheless, as the categories had already gained some currency in international usage, they were retained by the Board. The number was increased to six by the addition of a new category including substances and appliances for use in chemical warfare; in the President's Proclamation of May 1, 1937, it was raised to seven by the addition of a separate and more comprehensive category to include propellants and high explosives.[ii] The list adopted by the Board on September 24, 1935, was, with one slight modification, adopted by the Coördination Committee of the League of Nations in October of that year for use in connection with the Italo-Ethiopian War, and in one form or another it has gradually been attaining wider and wider acceptance in domestic legislation throughout the world.

The Secretary of State, in October 1935, promulgated rules and regulations for the enforcement of the provisions of the Neutrality Act relating to the registration of manufacturers, exporters and importers of arms, ammunition, and implements of war, and to the issuance of export and import licenses. These rules and regulations were published by the Department of State in a pamphlet "International Traffic in Arms -- Laws and Regulations Administered by the Secretary of State Governing the International Traffic in Arms, Ammunition, and Implements of War and Other Munitions of War." This pamphlet, as the title indicates, contained not only the rules and regulations which the Secretary of State was required by law to promulgate, but also the texts of the pertinent provisions of the laws, treaties and Presidential proclamations relating to the international traffic in arms. The Office of Arms and Munitions Control distributed copies of this pamphlet to all officers of the Government concerned in the administration and enforcement of the laws and regulations and to all persons known or supposed to be engaged in the business of manufacturing, exporting or importing arms, ammunition and implements of war. Second, third and fourth editions of this pamphlet, necessitated by changes in the laws and regulations and by new Presidential proclamations, were issued in November 1935, May 1936, and June 1937. It has proved very useful as a convenient source of information on a highly technical subject.

At the time of the passage of the Neutrality Act of August 31, 1935, no department of the Government was in possession of accurate information in regard to the number of companies engaged in the manufacture and exportation of arms, or in regard to the types of arms manufactured by or dealt in by those who were known to be engaged in their manufacture. In October 1935, the Secretary of State addressed letters to 817 persons and companies, enclosing a copy of the pamphlet, inviting attention to Section 2 of the Neutrality Act, and calling upon them to register in case the business in which they were engaged came within the scope of its provisions. One hundred and fifty-nine persons and companies had by May 1, 1937, registered as manufacturers, exporters or importers of arms, ammunition and implements of war, pursuant to the terms of the Joint Resolution.

There is a fundamental difference between the American system of export licenses for arms, ammunition, and implements of war and the systems of other countries. A provision of the Neutrality Act of August 31, 1935, unaffected by the amendments approved February 29, 1936, and May 1, 1937, reads as follows:

Licenses shall be issued to persons who have registered as provided for, except in cases of export or import licenses where exportation of arms, ammunition, or implements of war would be in violation of this Act or any other law of the United States, or of a treaty to which the United States is a party, in which cases such licenses shall not be issued.

Thus the authority of the Secretary of State in respect to the issuance of licenses is rigidly determined. He cannot refuse to issue a license which is legally issuable; he must issue a license if it is legally issuable and if it is applied for by a registered exporter, even though the proposed exportation is likely to give rise to embarrassment in the conduct of foreign relations, or is definitely inimical to American interests. His discretion is limited to determining whether or not an application for a license conforms to the regulations governing the submitting of applications, and whether or not the proposed shipment would be in violation of the law. He cannot legally -- and in practice he never does -- exceed these limitations. Unless some defect in the application requires that it be resubmitted or unless the determination of the legality of the proposed shipment necessarily requires investigation, licenses are issued within a few hours after applications are received by the Office of Arms and Munitions Control.

Occasionally, a prospective exporter who does not desire to stand on his legal right to obtain an export license inquires of the Department whether or not the shipment which he proposes to make would meet with the approval of the Government. Except in rare instances, such inquiries are answered by a mere statement of the pertinent provisions of statutes and treaties. Only in exceptional circumstances and in the case of proposed transactions which would demonstrably interfere with his obligations in the conduct of foreign relations, does the Secretary of State express objection, on grounds of policy, to the exportation of arms, and the expression of such objection does not prevent an exporter from obtaining a license if he sees fit to ignore the objection.

In other countries, the licensing authority is almost invariably vested with more or less complete discretion in the issuance of licenses. Licenses are refused not only because a proposed shipment would contravene a statute or a treaty, but also for reasons of financial, commercial, military, or foreign policy.

This distinction between the rigid system in effect in the United States and the more flexible systems in effect in other countries is not thoroughly understood either by the American public or by foreign governments. Organizations and mass meetings have frequently passed resolutions calling upon the Secretary of State to refuse to issue licenses which he would have no legal authority to refuse to issue, and newspapers have frequently criticized him in unmeasured terms for issuing licenses which he was legally bound to issue. In other countries where the executives are accustomed to act with full discretion in determining policy, the issuance of licenses by the Department of State has often been erroneously construed as motivated by considerations of foreign policy.

There is, however, a certain degree of discretion which is inseparable from the performance of any administrative function. Even though the Department of State is furnished by law with a definite criterion by which it is required to decide whether a particular license shall or shall not be issued, some degree of discretion is necessarily involved in the process of applying the law to the facts of particular cases. The Office of Arms and Munitions Control must scrutinize every application for a license, not only to determine whether or not the application blank is correctly filled out, but also to determine whether or not the proposed shipment is permissible under existing treaties and statutes.

One of the most important of the provisions of law which may prevent the issuance of an export license is found in Title I of the Espionage Act of June 15, 1917, which reads in part:

Whoever, with intent or reason to believe that it is to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation, communicates, delivers, or transmits, or attempts to, or aids or induces another to, communicate, deliver, or transmit, to any foreign government, or to any faction or party or military or naval force within a foreign country, whether recognized or unrecognized by the United States, or to any representative, officer, agent, employee, subject, or citizen thereof, either directly or indirectly, any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blue print, plan, map, model, note, instrument, appliance, or information relating to the national defense, shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than twenty years. . . .

The language of that provision is susceptible of various interpretations. In practice, it has been held to prohibit the issuance of licenses authorizing the exportation of any article which in whole or in part is considered by either the Secretary of War or the Secretary of the Navy to constitute a military secret of interest to the national defense. The Office of Arms and Munitions Control maintains an extensive, elaborate and highly technical catalogue of such articles. This catalogue is based upon decisions of the War Department and of the Navy Department. When an application for an export license contains insufficient technical information to permit the Office to determine whether or not the article which it is proposed to export constitutes or involves a military secret, or when the application requests a license to export some new or modified type of arm, ammunition, or implement of war -- and such cases arise with great frequency -- the Department of State consults the War Department and the Navy Department and, in accordance with the decisions of those Departments, issues or refuses to issue a license. When the Secretaries of War and of the Navy have waived objection to the exportation of a particular type of arm, ammunition, or implement of war, the above provision of the Espionage Act is no longer held to apply to the exportation of that item to any country.

A Joint Resolution of Congress approved January 31, 1922, authorizes the President to restrict the export of arms to countries in this hemisphere, or to countries in which the United States exercises extraterritorial jurisdiction, in case of domestic violence in those countries. Presidential Proclamations issued pursuant to this Joint Resolution are at present in effect in respect to China, Cuba, Honduras and Nicaragua. Licenses authorizing the exportation to those countries of arms, ammunition, and implements of war are granted only when the Department of State has been informed by the appropriate mission in Washington that the importation has been approved by the country of destination.

The enactment of Section 2 of the Neutrality Act of August 31, 1935, put an end to a series of apparent violations and attempted violations of the Chaco Arms Embargo, as the establishment of a general system of export licenses for arms, ammunition, and implements of war made it extremely difficult to evade an embargo. A number of these earlier cases of apparent violation of the law have been under investigation by the Department of Justice and have reached various stages in the courts. In one of them -- United States v. Curtiss Wright Export Corporation, et al -- the Federal District Court of the Southern District of New York rendered an opinion on March 24, 1936, sustaining demurrers on the ground that congressional delegation to the President of the power to find "that the prohibition of the sale of arms and munitions of war in the United States to the countries now engaged in armed conflict in the Chaco may contribute to the reëstablishment of peace in those countries" was an invalid delegation of legislative power. The demurrers were reargued and the court on April 18, 1936, filed a supplementary opinion adhering to the views expressed in the original opinion. This judgment was appealed directly to the Supreme Court of the United States, and the Supreme Court on December 21, 1936, handed down an opinion by which the judgment of the District Court was reversed and the constitutionality of the Joint Resolution clearly affirmed.

This far-reaching decision established principles of the utmost importance in regard to the authority of the Executive in the conduct of foreign relations. Its importance in connection with the supervision and control of the international traffic in arms can scarcely be exaggerated. Had the opinion of the District Court been sustained, it is difficult to see how it would have been possible for the Federal Government to maintain any effective control of exports of arms from the United States.

Section 1 of the Neutrality Act of August 31, 1935, in its original form read in part as follows:

That upon the outbreak or during the progress of war between, or among, two or more foreign states the President shall proclaim such fact, and it shall thereafter be unlawful to export arms, ammunition, or implements of war from any place in the United States, or possessions of the United States, to any port of such belligerent states, or to any neutral port for transshipment to, or for the use of, a belligerent country.

The President, by proclamation, shall definitely enumerate the arms, ammunition, or implements of war, the export of which is prohibited by this Act. Pursuant to these provisions, the President issued on October 5, 1935, a Proclamation prohibiting the exportation of arms, ammunition or implements of war to Ethiopia and Italy. The expiration of that Section on February 29, 1936, and the enactment on that date of the new Neutrality Act by which the Section was slightly amended, required the issuance of a new Proclamation. That Proclamation remained in effect until it was revoked on June 20, 1936. Therefore, from October 5, 1935, until June 20, 1936, no export licenses were issued for arms, ammunition, or implements of war destined to Ethiopia or Italy.

When civil war broke out in Spain in July 1936 a new and highly profitable potential market was opened to American exporters of arms. There was no provision of law under which the Executive could prevent the exportation of arms to Spain. Not only was the Department of State without authority to refuse to issue the necessary export licenses, but it was compelled by the mandatory provisions of the law to issue them to duly registered applicants. The conditions under which the civil war was being conducted and its possible effect upon the peace of Europe made it obvious that, for reasons of foreign policy, if for no other, the exportation of arms to Spain was contrary to American interests. The Secretary of State informed all prospective exporters that the exportation of arms to Spain was contrary to the policy of the Government, at the same time making it clear to them that if, notwithstanding his objections, they insisted upon applying for export licenses, the licenses would be issued.

It is to the credit of the American arms industry that, with three or four exceptions, manufacturers and exporters were willing in support of the policy of the Government to abstain from entering into contracts and from applying for licenses to carry out transactions which would have been highly profitable. Only two actually insisted upon obtaining the export licenses to which they were legally entitled. One of these licenses was revoked when the exportation of arms to Spain was legally prohibited on January 8, 1937, before the licensee had been able to assemble the arms which he proposed to export; the other was revoked in time to prevent the exportation of all but a small percentage of the arms the exportation of which it authorized.

On January 8, 1937, the President approved the first public resolution of the 75th Congress which had convened only three days before, which reads in part as follows:

That during the existence of the state of civil strife now obtaining in Spain it shall, from and after the approval of this Resolution be unlawful to export arms, ammunition, or implements of war from any place in the United States, or possessions of the United States, to Spain or to any other foreign country for transshipment to Spain or for use of either of the opposing forces in Spain. Arms, ammunition, or implements of war, the exportation of which is prohibited by this Resolution, are those enumerated in the President's Proclamation No. 2163 of April 10, 1936.

That Joint Resolution is still in effect, although it is to all intents and purposes superseded by the provisions of Section 1 of the Neutrality Act of May 1, 1937, which read:

Whenever the President shall find that a state of civil strife exists in a foreign state and that such civil strife is of a magnitude or is being conducted under such conditions that the export of arms, ammunition, or implements of war from the United States to such foreign state would threaten or endanger the peace of the United States, the President shall proclaim such fact, and it shall thereafter be unlawful to export, or attempt to export, or cause to be exported, arms, ammunition, or implements of war from any place in the United States to such foreign state, or to any neutral state for transshipment to, or for the use of, such foreign state.

The President shall, from time to time by proclamation, definitely enumerate the arms, ammunition, and implements of war, the export of which is prohibited by this section. The arms, ammunition, and implements of war so enumerated shall include those enumerated in the President's proclamation Numbered 2163, of April 10, 1936, but shall not include raw materials or any other articles or materials not of the same general character as those enumerated in the said proclamation, and in the Convention for the Supervision of the International Trade in Arms and Ammunition and in Implements of War, signed at Geneva June 17, 1925.

Immediately after approving this Act, the President issued a Proclamation making it applicable to Spain and enumerating as arms, ammunition, and implements of war a list of articles identical with those enumerated in the Proclamation which he issued at the same time pursuant to Section 5 of the Act.

In the administration of the restrictions and prohibitions imposed on the export of arms to particular countries, the principal difficulty encountered by the Office of Arms and Munitions Control has arisen in connection with shipments which, although ostensibly destined to a country to which the exportation of arms is not subjected to any special restrictions, nevertheless appear to be intended for transshipment to a prohibited destination. The provision of the law, already quoted, which makes it mandatory that licenses shall not be issued when a proposed shipment would be in violation of the law, obliges the Office to scrutinize applications for licenses with particular care in order to assure itself that the country named as the destination of the shipment is in fact the ultimate destination. Occasionally a thorough investigation, in which the prospective exporter is often glad to coöperate, is necessary before the license is issued, and in some cases such an investigation has revealed facts which have made it clear that licenses could not be legally issued.

The United States plays a leading part in the international traffic in arms. Although its imports are negligible, it ranks second or third in the value of its exports. The available statistics are not sufficiently accurate or comparable to permit placing the exporting countries in the exact order of their importance.

The Department of State issues a monthly summary giving information as to licenses issued, indicating the categories and the values of the arms covered by those licenses and the countries of destination. The National Munitions Control Board is required by the law to submit annually to Congress a report giving full and detailed information in regard to all licenses issued. From the statistics which have been published, it appears that during the period between November 6, 1935, when the first export licenses were issued under the Neutrality Act, and April 30, 1937, 6,056[iii] licenses were issued authorizing the exportation of arms, ammunition, and implements of war to the total value of $43,443,042.64. The principal purchasers during that period were:

China $8,942,137.72
Argentina 5,241,685.90
Netherlands 2,267,980.62
Netherlands Indies 2,145,477.77
Mexico 2,130,205.34
Turkey 2,070,469.50
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics 1,632,087.33
Canada 1,503,906.35
Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1,479,661.80
Japan 1,363,417.42

Aircraft and aircraft parts compose the majority of the exports as is indicated by the following table showing the categories of arms (see footnote 2) for which export licenses were issued between November 6, 1935, and April 30, 1937:

Category I (1) $ 124,177.18
(2) 963,910.68
(3) 232,500.00
(4) 1,834,189.30
(5) 810,258.96
(6) 34,696.00
Category III (1) 12,037,037.74
(2) 139,350.23
Category IV (1) 646,935.69
(2) 462,791.47
Category V (1) 14,350,773.91
(2) 3,317,228.16
(3) 8,458,098.32
Category VI (1) 1,095.00
(2) 30,000.00

The governments of some arms-producing countries have for political or economic reasons deemed it to their interest to stimulate the export trade in arms. The American Government has, however, for several years adopted a policy of disassociating itself from the promotion of the export trade in such articles. American representatives abroad will, when requested by American exporters, their agents or prospective purchasers, follow the same procedure in giving information and advice as they would follow in respect to any other commodity, but they will not endeavor to create trade opportunities for American exporters, nor will they use official channels to communicate inquiries or offers between prospective purchasers and sellers.

It has long been recognized by students of the problem that no effective control of the international traffic in arms can be established except by international agreement. Nevertheless, in the absence of a general international convention of the type which the American Government has made such earnest endeavors to negotiate, the establishment of a measure of supervision and control by domestic legislation has been successful in accomplishing the restricted purposes for which it was designed. The light of publicity has been turned upon the operations of American arms manufacturers, and their transactions are no longer hidden from the Government or from the public; the legal restrictions upon the exportation of arms can now be administered with a degree of efficiency unusual in the enforcement of criminal statutes; and the Government is in a position to fulfill its obligations should an international arms traffic convention become effective.

[i] See "Arms Manufacturers and the Public," by J., in FOREIGN AFFAIRS, July 1934.

[ii] The list, as it appears in the Proclamation of May 1, 1937, is as follows:

Category I. 1. Rifles and carbines using ammunition in excess of caliber .22, and barrels for those weapons; 2. Machine guns, automatic or autoloading rifles, and machine pistols using ammunition in excess of caliber .22, and barrels for those weapons; 3. Guns, howitzers, and mortars of all calibers, their mountings and barrels; 4. Ammunition in excess of caliber .22 for the arms enumerated under (1) and (2) above, and cartridge cases or bullets for such ammunition; filled and unfilled projectiles for the arms enumerated under (3) above; 5. Grenades, bombs, torpedoes, mines and depth charges, filled or unfilled, and apparatus for their use or discharge; 6. Tanks, military armored vehicles, and armored trains.

Category II. Vessels of war of all kinds, including aircraft carriers and submarines, and armor plate for such vessels.

Category III. 1. Aircraft, unassembled, assembled, or dismantled, both heavier and lighter than air, which are designed, adapted, and intended for aerial combat by the use of machine guns or of artillery or for the carrying and dropping of bombs, or which are equipped with, or which by reason of design or construction are prepared for, any of the appliances referred to in paragraph (2) below; 2. Aerial gun mounts and frames, bomb racks, torpedo carriers, and bomb or torpedo release mechanisms.

Category IV. 1. Revolvers and automatic pistols using ammunition in excess of caliber .22; 2. Ammunition in excess of caliber .22 for the arms enumerated under (1) above, and cartridge cases or bullets for such ammunition.

Category V. 1. Aircraft, unassembled, assembled or dismantled, both heavier and lighter than air, other than those included in Category III; 2. Propellers or air screws, fuselages, hulls, wings, tail units, and under-carriage units; 3. Aircraft engines, unassembled, assembled, or dismantled.

Category VI. 1. Livens projectors and flame throwers; 2. (a) Mustard gas (dichlorethyl sulphide); (b) lewisite (chlorvinyldichlorarsine and dichlordivinylchlorarsine); (c) methyldichlorarsine; (d) diphenylchlorarsine; (e) diphenylcyanarsine; (f) diphenylaminechlorarsine; (g) phenyldichlorarsine; (h) ethyldichlorarsine; (i) phenyldibromarsine; (j) ethyldibromarsine; (k) phosgene; (1) monochlormethylchlorformate; (m) trichlormethylchlorformate (diphosgene); (n) dichlordimethyl Ether; (o) dibromdimethyl Ether; (p) cyanogen Chloride; (q) ethylbromacetate; (r) ethyliodoacetate; (s) brombenzylcyanide; (t) bromacetone; (u) brommethylethyl ketone.

Category VII. 1. Propellant powders; 2. High explosives as follows: (a) Nitrocellulose having a nitrogen content of more than 12%; (b) trinitrotoluene; (c) trinitroxylene; (d) tetryl (trinitrophenol methyl nitramine or tetranitro methylaniline); (e) picric acid; (f) ammonium picrate; (g) trinitroanisol; (h) trinitronaphthalene; (i) tetranitronaphthalene; (j) hexanitrodiphenylamine; (k) pentaerythritetetranitrate (Penthrite or Pentrite); (1) trimethylenetrinitramine (Hexogen or T4); (m) potassiumnitrate powders (black saltpeter powder); (n) sodium nitrate powders (black soda powder); (o) amatol (mixture of ammonium nitrate and trinitrotoluene); (p) ammonal (mixture of ammonium nitrate, trinitrotoluene, and powdered aluminum, with or without other ingredients); (q) schneiderite (mixture of ammonium nitrate and dinitronaphthalene, with or without other ingredients).

[iii] In this and the following figures deductions have been made for licenses revoked by the Department either on its own initiative or at the request of exporters because of the cancellation or modification of orders.

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  • JOSEPH C. GREEN, Chief of the Office of Arms and Munitions Control of the Department of State; Executive Secretary of the National Munitions Control Board
  • More By Joseph C. Green