Foreign Military Sales and the Missile Technology Control Regime: A New Focus for the Future. (Education and Training)

By Lieutenant Colonel Rimpo, Bill | DISAM Journal, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Foreign Military Sales and the Missile Technology Control Regime: A New Focus for the Future. (Education and Training)


Lieutenant Colonel Rimpo, Bill, DISAM Journal


June 7, 2009, intermediate ballistic and cruise missiles carrying chemical and biological weapons rain down on the Bandarian capital and Bandarian military bases. The missiles, launched from neighboring Zastavia, shattered Bandaria's infrastructure and military forces. Allied forces were stunned by the swiftness of the attack, in particular the sophistication of the delivery systems. The technological advances Zastavia made in developing weapons of mass destruction and acquiring the capability to deliver such weapons left intelligence services scrambling to uncover the source of Zastavia's rapid advancements.

While this scenario is fictional, in reality there are countries and terrorist organizations that are in full press to acquire weapons of mass destruction along with the delivery systems for those weapons. Foreign sources use a variety of methods, both legal and illegal to acquire the technical knowledge required to develop the sophisticated hardware to conduct such operations as seen in our fictional scenario. To combat the proliferation of weapons, international agreements and treaties are in force to limit the spread of weapons, from conventional to chemical, biological and nuclear, as well as the hardware to deliver these weapons of mass destruction. The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is one such international agreement.

In April 1987, the G7 nations of Canada, West Germany, France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States created the Missile Technology Control Regime, which drafted guidelines for the transfer of sensitive missile related hardware and technology. Currently thirty-three nations have agreed to the guidelines of the MTCR. The purpose of the MTCR is to "limit the risks of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by controlling transfers that could make a contribution to delivery systems for such weapons." (1) These guidelines provide member nations a framework in which to develop national export policy within the laws of each individual nation. The guidelines and the annex provide the framework for a case-by-case consideration of transfers of items contained in the annex, while at the same time not impeding national space programs or international cooperation in space programs. (2)

The MTCR annex is the heart of the regime. It contains a list of twenty items that are to be considered controlled items and subject to export controls. These twenty items are grouped into two categories: Category I consists of the first two items which are considered the most sensitive and subject to a strong presumption of denial for transfer to foreign governments and entities; Category II consist of the remaining eighteen items and particular restraint will be exercised in considering transfers.

In considering transfers of MTCR items, the guidelines provide criteria to evaluate such transfers: (3)

* Concerns about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;

* The capabilities and objectives of the missile and space programs of the recipient state;

* The significance of the transfer in terms of the potential development of delivery systems (other than manned aircraft) for weapons of mass destruction;

* The assessment of the end-use of the transfers, including the relevant assurances of the recipient states;

* The applicability of relevant multilateral agreements.

The United States Government has adopted the MTCR guidelines and codified the requirement to apply export controls in the Arms Export Control Act (P.L. 90-629) Chapter 7, Control of Missiles and Missile Equipment or Technology. (4) The Arms Export Control Act (AECA) is the legal authority for the sale, lease, financing, and cooperative programs involving defense articles or services as found in the U.S. Munitions List. Controlled items under the MTCR are included in the munitions list and are subject to the same scrutiny as other defense articles. …

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