FacultyFaculty/Author Profile
Brian H. Nilsson

Brian H. Nilsson

U.S. Department of State
Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) of State for Defense Trade Controls
Washington, DC, USA

Brian Nilsson was appointed to the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Defense Trade Controls in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs on October 13, 2015. In his current position, Mr. Nilsson manages the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) and provides overall policy guidance regarding the transfer of defense technologies to other countries through commercial defense trade, and serves as one of the key links between the State and Defense Departments in this issue area.

Prior to joining the U.S. Department of State, Mr. Nilsson was the Director for Non-Proliferation–Export Controls on the National Security Council (NSC) at the White House.  He joined the NSC in 2008 on detail from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security.  He had the NSC export control portfolio for dual-use items and the export and import control portfolio for munitions items.  His primary responsibility was for the Administration’s Export Control Reform (ECR) Initiative for the NSC and the National Economic Council and he served as the chair of the White House Export Control Reform Task Force.  His portfolio included other trade issues affected by export and import controls, including Conventional Arms Transfer policy, firearms imports, and Unmanned Aerial Systems exports.

At Commerce, Mr. Nilsson was the Chairman of the Operating Committee (OC) for Export Policy, a type of administrative judge, hearing cases involving proposed exports or re-exports of dual-use items that require an export license.  He heard cases in which the reviewing U.S. Government agencies could not reach agreement and decided the outcome of the disputed license applications.  The committee is part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Export Administration.

Prior to his Chairmanship, Mr. Nilsson held a series of positions at the Department of Commerce, including Deputy Director of the Foreign Policy Controls Division, Acting Director of the Office of Strategic Trade and Foreign Policy Controls, Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration, and acting Deputy Assistant Secretary on behalf of the Assistant Secretary for matters related to the management and administrative functions of the then 170 person organization.  These positions covered a wide range of export control and defense industrial base issues.

Mr. Nilsson first joined the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (formerly the Bureau of Export Administration) in 1989 as a Trade and Industry Analyst.  He was responsible for researching and writing assessments of key sectors of the U.S. defense industrial base.  His major publications included assessments of the advanced composites and semiconductor industries, as well as the most comprehensive supply matrix assessment conducted to date on foreign sourcing and dependencies in U.S. naval weapon systems.  Mr. Nilsson came to BIS from the Department’s International Trade Administration, where he conducted audits of foreign firms alleged to be illegally dumping products in the U.S. market.

Mr. Nilsson is an historian by training.  He holds bachelor degrees in history and French from Clemson University in South Carolina, and a Master’s in Business Administration with an emphasis in international management from the Thunderbird Graduate School of International Management in Arizona.


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