Great Responsibility: A Legislative Reform Agenda for U.S. Arms Transfers and Civilian Harm
Center for Civilians in Conflict, October 2020
A new policy brief from the Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) lays out a comprehensive set of recommendations for arms transfers reform aimed at reversing the steady decline in Congressional authority over American arms exports.
When it comes to arms sales, the balance of power between the White House and Congress has come to list strongly towards the executive branch, which has allowed both democratic and republican administrations to prioritize the perceived short-term strategic and economic benefits of arms transfers to the detriment of more enduring national interests, foreign policy objectives, and fundamental U.S. values.
As a result, U.S. arms have directly contributed to civilian harm and human rights abuses in a variety of volatile theatres, including attacks against civilians in Yemen; human rights abuses in Cameroon and Nigeria; and the spread of weapons to groups like the Islamic State and criminal gangs in Central America.
The policy brief lays out recommendations for reform in three key areas:
Clarifying additional requirements and responsibilities for the executive branch when negotiating and engaging in arms transfers, in order to mitigate against human rights violations and corruption risks;
Strengthening Congressional oversight and responsibility for approving or disapproving arms transfers; and
Increasing public transparency and awareness of both proposed and completed arms transfers.
To read the full brief, click here, or, to download a summary one-pager, click here.
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Breakdown of 2019 Firearm Notification Recipients that Would Have Not Received Congressional Notification Under New Guidelines
The graphic above illustrates the breakdown of notification recipients in 2019 that would have avoided congressional notification under new firearm export regulations.
Under new regulations, firearms and accessories that would have previously been handled by the State Department will now be under the purview of the Department of Commerce, meaning arms sales that would have previously been notified to congress will no longer receive any such congressional scrutiny.
A new policy brief by CIVIC examines the erosion of congressional authority over U.S. arms transfers and the civilian protection risks associated with such trends.
To see read SAM’s full Issue Brief on the subject, click here.