During the 1990s, the United States and other supplier countries began applying “catch all” controls, requiring exporters to seek a license to sell an unlisted item if they know or are informed that a potential customer is connected to proliferation. However, governments did not supply exporters with a list of dangerous end-users. The Wisconsin Project sought to bridge this knowledge gap and began publishing a newsletter called the Risk Report.
The introductory issue of the Risk Report appeared in 1995. It contained several articles about India’s nuclear program and listed the entities helping to grow the country’s plutonium stockpile. It also described Iraq’s efforts to smuggle missile fuel and successful U.S. efforts to thwart the transfer. The aim of the newsletter was to raise awareness about how WMD programs around the world were being fueled with Western exports, some of which complied with export control laws, and to help exporters avoid such sales so as to “protect their reputations” and “know more about their customers.” Initial funding for the Risk Report was provided by several private foundations.
After several years as a paper newsletter, the Wisconsin Project decided to publish all entity profiles in electronic form, to accommodate the cumulative information about risky end users and to enable subscribers to search easily across this information. This Risk Report database was initially made available on CD and, in 2001, through a secure online interface. At this time, funding to support the Risk Report shifted from private foundations to a combination of government grants and direct “subscriptions.”
In its over 20 year history, database content has expanded to include not only profiles of entities linked to proliferation and analysis about programs of concern by the Wisconsin Project, but also descriptions of dual-use commodities, strategic trade control regulations, multilateral control lists, and government warning lists and blacklists. Data from the Risk Report is incorporated into a number of company screening systems and government risk management and targeting systems.
The Risk Report is the only comprehensive, curated database focused exclusively on proliferation that is used as a tool to manage strategic trade.