Opportunities To Improve Decisionmaking and Oversight of Arms Sales

ID-79-22: Published: May 21, 1979. Publicly Released: May 21, 1979.

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In May 1977 the President announced an arms transfer restraint policy. The policy included quantitative and qualitative controls on government-to-government sales to all countries except our NATO allies, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. The most visible element of the policy was the ceiling placed on the aggregate dollar value of sales to nonexempt countries in 1978 and 1979.

The evidence that the executive branch has marshaled to demonstrate its restraint accomplishments is not convincing. Other countries simply have not yet agreed to restrain arms sales. Despite numerous meetings with other major arms suppliers, there have been no concrete achievements toward multilateral restraint. The President's restraint policy is stated in global terms and has not been translated into the needs and realities of the U.S. relations with specific purchasing countries. Although the Department of State recognizes that more detailed criteria are essential to effectively implement the restraint policy, it sees criteria as detracting from foreign policy flexibility. Individual case determinations, influenced by the political or military concerns of the moment, bear heavily on the evolving U.S. arms supply relationship with an individual country or region. Arms sales requests should be judged against preestablished country criteria. Inadequate interagency planning for military sales also has been a continuing problem.

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