Regulatory intelligence for US exporters

Treasury Will Make 'Pitch' for More Sanctions Resources, Official Says

The Treasury Department could use more resources and needs to better recruit and retain employees to implement and enforce its sanctions programs, said Brian Nelson, the agency’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. Nelson, speaking during a law conference in Washington last week, said the agency is specifically looking to hire more officials to help it grapple with how best to apply sanctions in the virtual assets space and other emerging industries, including around artificial intelligence.

Start A Trial

“One thing is just making sure that we understand the technology and are bringing in colleagues who really have that knowledge base,” Nelson said during the conference, hosted by Mayer Brown, the American Bar Association and American University. “Really it's a question of recruiting and resources and budgets” and “making sure that we're prioritizing in the right ways.” Nelson said he “will go to the Hill and make my pitch for more resources.”

Although “some forms of bad activity” in the “virtual assets space or AI” may “be relatively limited today,” Treasury needs to make sure it has the correct set of “expertise to understand where those industries are going and how they may relate to illicit finance,” Nelson said. “Some of it is just really -- are we attracting the right pool of folks to the Treasury Department? Are we engaging with industry enough?”

Nelson said recruitment has “been a challenge.” The Office of Foreign Assets Control saw a record number of employees leave during the Trump administration, and several former officials warned the departures and an influx of new officials could lead to longer processing times and a loss of institutional knowledge (see 2010290028).

Nelson said Treasury hasn’t been able to compete with salaries offered by the private sector, which can “compensate their employees more fulsomely than we can.” Instead of offering more money, the agency has focused on emphasizing the “unique” benefits of working for the government and the potential for “career development.”

“One of the things that we have found, or at least I have found, is just reorientation around the mission, and making sure that everyone understands how important their role is in our national security mission,” Nelson said. “And once we have them, one of the things that we're working through is: How do you create the types of professional development opportunities that will incentivize talent to stay? How can we think about the sort of career ladder that will really allow talent to feel like they can effectively spend their entire career within Treasury?”

But Nelson also acknowledged OFAC is a “small agency, so it's really a little bit challenging from our perspective.”