Obama's Arms-Sale Power Grab; Ending Congressional Role Could Result in U.S. Weapons Threatening Israel

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The sale of weapons and other military equipment to our allies and friendly governments has long been an important element of American foreign and national security policy. Arms sales can enhance regional stability, aid in the fight against terrorism, support our friends and help provide jobs for American workers. Such sales can be controversial. Therefore, before an arms transfer goes forward, Congress must approve it after weighing a number of complex issues regarding the needs of the purchasing country, the threats it faces, its human rights record, corruption, the regional balance and proliferation risks, just to name a few. For many years, Congress and successive administrations have relied on an efficient and effective system of informal consultation to consider these issues prior to the administration making a formal proposal to Congress.

Now the Obama administration is trying to scrap this proven process in favor of one that would give it the power to ram through weapons transfers without fully answering congressional questions and concerns. This could have severe implications for U.S. national security and the security of our allies, especially Israel.

This change is both unwise and unnecessary. In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton from me and the two leaders of the House - Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, and ranking member Howard L. Berman, California Democrat - we said, The revised process overturns an informal consultative process that has been in place for decades built on trust and mutual interest. As such, it gravely undermines both.

The prenotification consultations usually proceed expeditiously in both houses of Congress with bipartisan cooperation - the median committee review time in 2010 was just 21 days. This gives Congress a chance to ask questions or offer modifications to the proposed sale. Traditionally, the executive branch has not gone forward with formal notification of an arms transfer until Congress' concerns have been addressed through consultations.

These talks often result in an arms-sale proposal that is better for American security than the original. Equally important, the informal route avoids the public wrangling over an arms sale that often can be embarrassing and damaging to our relations with the proposed recipient country. …