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U.S. Defense Articles and Services Supplied to Foreign Recipients: Restrictions on Their Use

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Publication Date: March 2005

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RL30982

Topic: Military and defense (Military policy)


In accordance with United States law, the U.S. Government places conditions on the use of defense articles and defense services transferred by it to foreign recipients. Violation of these conditions can lead to the suspension of deliveries or termination of the contracts for such defense items, among other things. On occasion, the President has indicated that such violations by foreign countries "may" have occurred, raising the prospect that termination of deliveries to or imposition of other penalties on such nations might take place. Section 3(a) of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) sets the general standards for countries or international organizations to be eligible to receive United States defense articles and defense services provided under this act. It also sets express conditions on the uses to which these defense items may be put. Section 4 of the Arms Export Control Act states that U.S. defense articles and defense services shall be sold to friendly countries "solely" for use in "internal security," for use in "legitimate self-defense," to enable the recipient to participate in "regional or collective arrangements or measures consistent with the Charter of the United Nations," to enable the recipient to participate in "collective measures requested by the United Nations for the purpose of maintaining or restoring international peace and security," and to enable the foreign military forces "in less developed countries to construct public works and to engage in other activities helpful to the economic and social development of such friendly countries."

Section 3(c)(2) of the Arms Export Control Act requires the President to report promptly to the Congress upon the receipt of information that a "substantial violation" described in section 3(c)(1) of the AECA "may have occurred." This Presidential report need not reach any conclusion regarding the possible violation or provide any particular data other than that necessary to illustrate that the President has received information indicating a specific country may have engaged in a "substantial violation" of an applicable agreement with the United States that governs the sale of U.S. defense articles or services. Should the President determine and report in writing to Congress or if Congress determines through enactment of a joint resolution pursuant to section 3(c)(3)(A) of the Arms Export Control Act that a "substantial violation" by a foreign country of an applicable agreement governing an arms sale has occurred, then that country becomes ineligible for further U.S. military sales under the AECA. This action would terminate provision of credits, loan guarantees, cash sales, and deliveries pursuant to previous sales. Since the major revision of U.S. arms export law in 1976, neither the President nor the Congress have actually determined that a violation did occur thus necessitating the termination of deliveries or sales or other penalties set out in section 3 of the Arms Export Control Act. The United States Government has other options under the Arms Export Control Act to prevent transfer of defense articles and services for which valid contracts exist short of finding a foreign country in violation of an applicable agreement with the United States. These options include suspension of deliveries of defense items already ordered and refusal to allow new arms orders. The United States has utilized at least one such option against Argentina, Israel, Indonesia, and Turkey.