This chapter covers Capitol Hill's part in the arms export process, including information on the committees and members of Congress of greatest relevance. Contact information is provided, as are tips for effectively lobbying your Representative and Senators and working with their staff.
Members of Congress do not play the lead role in making arms export policy, but they do have substantial leverage to modify the actions of the executive branch through five principal means-an ability to: 1) review and block proposed arms sales; 2) pass laws and appropriate money; 3) question executive branch officials and independent experts at hearings; 4) request oversight investigations and policy reviews by government agencies; and 5) publicize broadly arms export issues. These activities are explained in some detail below, so that you will know the timing of and context for the requests that you are making of your elected representatives.
Reviewing Individual Arms Sales
Congress has the right to review-and the ability to block-many of the arms sales being pursued by the executive branch. Sections 36(b) and (c) of the Arms Export Control Act require the President to notify Capitol Hill of proposed weapons sales and leases (negotiated by the Pentagon, as well as those negotiated directly by industry) valued at $14 million or more. In most cases, lawmakers have 30 days to consider the deals before the contract can be offered or the export license granted. For arms transfers to close allies like Japan, Australia and members of the NATO alliance, Congress has only a 15-day review period. These sales announcements are referred to as "36(b) notifications" for government-negotiated foreign military sales, or "36(c) notifications" for commercially-negotiated deals.
The Foreign Assistance Act (section 516) directs the President to tell Congress about any planned shipments of excess defense articles-surplus weapons stocks that the US armed forces intend to give or sell at a deep discount to foreign militaries. Congress has 30 days to review these deals. Similarly, the President must pre-notify Capitol Hill of any emergency drawdowns of weapons and materials from US stocks destined for foreign militaries. These drawdowns are grant transfers of US surplus weapons stocks that are justified usually on the basis of aiding the fight against drug trafficking or in response to some other perceived crisis.
In order to block or amend a proposed arms transfer, members of both the House and Senate must introduce a Joint Resolution of Disapproval. The resolutions are then referred to the House and Senate foreign affairs committees, which must report them out of committee (that is, pass them). The full House and Senate must then pass the resolution with enough votes (two-thirds of each chamber) to override a Presidential veto.
Congress must do all of this within the 15 or 30 day time period prescribed, which poses a very high hurdle. In fact, it is so high that Congress has never made it over; the legislature has never blocked an arms sale in this manner. The last serious attempt by Congress to do so occurred in 1986, when President Reagan proposed to sell Saudi Arabia 1,700 "Sidewinder" air-to-air missiles, 100 "Harpoon" anti-ship missiles, and 200 "Stinger" shoulder- launched anti-aircraft missile launchers with 600 missiles. Congress mustered veto-proof majorities in both chambers and stalled the sale, but eventually House and Senate leaders cut a deal with President Reagan which allowed some of the missiles to be sold. This episode demonstrates that even when the political will exists in Congress to block a sale, the administration and arms industry maintain a great deal of leverage with which to twist arms and turn votes.
Since 1986, the executive branch has sold over $145 billion of weapons to governments around the world without a single vote by Congress on a proposed deal. On top of this, thousands of commercial sales-valued in the tens of billions of dollars-have taken place in the past decade without objection or even discussion in Congress.
The congressional review procedure has been underutilized for several reasons. First, the systemic difficulty of assembling the large number of votes necessary in the short time period allotted poses a daunting challenge. The near impossibility of successfully blocking a sale has no doubt dissuaded some members of Congress from even trying. Compounding this difficulty is the fact that only a very small percentage of lawmakers (and their staff) are aware of pending arms sales. The notifications are referred to the House International Relations Committee (with 48 members) and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (with 18 members). The other 469 Representatives and Senators are generally completely in the dark. And even the relevant members and their over-burdened staff are lax in reviewing the sales proposals. According to a former director of the House International Relations Committee staff, only a few personnel routinely bother to read the classified background information provided to the committee on these sales.
Second, notice to Congress of proposed arms sales comes very late in the process. The deal will have been in the works with the customer government for months or years by the time Congress is let in on it. A refusal at this point, the administration often argues, would damage bilateral relations, national security and/or the prestige of the office of the President.
Third, the days of the activist and reform-minded Congress which established the Arms Export Control Act are in the past. Enacted in 1976, the AECA was inspired by the Vietnam war and several scandals in the conduct of overseas business, including the widespread use of bribery by US companies to win arms deals. Lawmakers today involve themselves in many foreign policy issues, but Congress is not highly focused on reforming US conventional arms export policy. (Rather, Capitol Hill tries to reform Russian and Chinese export practices.) This lack of critical concern about our own policies is fostered by the fact that many congressional districts derive at least some jobs from arms exports, and many members of Congress derive campaign contributions from arms exporters (see chapter 5).
Finally, it is important to note that thousands of weapons transfer deals occur each year without any public or congressional scrutiny. Sales of small arms, non-lethal equipment and spare parts are routine and generally fall below the $14 million threshold for congressional notification. In addition, although most transfers which require congressional notification are made public, some sales are classified, either because the weapon system itself is classified, or to protect US foreign policy interests. Certain aspects of other sales are kept secret to protect confidential business information. Finally, US intelligence agencies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency, may transfer arms secretly, under section 40(h) of the Arms Export Control Act. Only members of the intelligence oversight committees are informed of covert arms supply operations.
All of this is not to say that congressional review is without value. Because Congress and the press are told of large pending sales, a national debate in the media or a backroom dialogue between the administration and Congress can and does occur. Moreover, the possibility that Capitol Hill will block a sale-or even attempt to do so-probably does moderate administration sales activity.
Giving further cause for optimism, Congress passed legislation in 1996 which mandated that the Pentagon and State Department publish arms sales notifications in the Federal Register-the daily bulletin where the executive branch prints regulations and other public communication. The proposed sales are usually published within a week of their transmittal to Congress. Most public, university and law libraries subscribe to the Federal Register, and it is available on the worldwide web. This notification system provides people across the country (or even around the world) with real-time information on US arms deals in the works. Researchers and activists now have the ability to monitor arms sales activity as effectively-or more so-than do congressional staff, and campaigns to oppose individual sales, while still facing enormous hurdles, are more feasible.
The pending Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers Act would further strengthen Congress' oversight role by providing for annual congressional review of US arms recipients. When enacted into law, the measure will require the President to certify annually which governments meet the human rights, democracy and non-aggression criteria spelled out in the act. This certification would not replace congressional review of individual weapons sales, but rather would add a once a year consideration of the eligibility of governments to import American arms.
photo: Larry Barns
Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), a leading sponsor of the Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers Act in the House of Representatives. Behind her, Elie Wiesel, the Dalai Lama, Oscar Arias and José Ramos-Horta-all Nobel Peace Prize winners who support a code of conduct for weapons sales.
How to Track Legislation
- Thomas Legislative Information
- web: thomas.loc.gov
- A searchable database with summaries of all bills introduced from present back to 1973, full text of all bills introduced since 1990 and a record of all roll call votes back to 1989. Includes full text of Congressional Record on-line.
- Legislative Resource Center of the House of Representatives
- phone: 202/226-5200; web: clerkweb.house.gov
- Provides centralized access to committee reports on bills and other records of the House.
- Library of Congress Internet Resource Page on Congress
- web: lcweb.loc.gov/global/legislative/congress.html
- Includes the following links: About Congress / Congressional Mega Sources / Members / Committees / Congressional Organizations / E-Mail Addresses / Calendars & Schedules / Floor Proceedings / Legislation / US Code / House and Senate Rules / Congressional Record / Roll Call Votes / Executive Business of the Senate / Legislative Process / Congressional News and Analysis / Congressional Internet Services / The History of Congress / Visitor Information.
- The House of Representatives, Information
- phone: 202/225-3121; web: www.house.gov
- Contact info for all House committees and Representatives.
- The US Senate, Information
- phone: 202/224-3121; web: www.senate.gov
- Contact info for all Senate committees and Senators.
- Legislative Information (LEGIS)
- phone: 202/225-1772
- Call this number to check the status of any bill in the House or Senate, including names of cosponsors and latest action.
- Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report
- check your local library
- A comprehensive weekly digest of what's happening in Congress. It allows you to track legislation all the way from hearings to final passage.
The Power of the Purse
Congress greatest impact on transparency, oversight and restraint in the weapons trade derives from its ability to write laws and appropriate (or withhold) money. Congress sometimes passes specific (or stand alone) legislation limiting weapons exports, but-more often-arms trade policy is included as an amendment to one or more of the annual defense or foreign aid budget bills. These funding bills are usually assured of passage, whereas stand alone bills are subject to Congressional vagaries. For this reason, in 1997 Reps. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) offered the Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers Act as an amendment to the State Department authorization bill. In recent appropriations bills, Congress has mandated reports on arms sales programs, prohibited arms transfers or training to particular countries, and (unfortunately) directed taxpayer funds toward the marketing and financing of weapons sales.
Capitol Hill's principal job is to appropriate money to keep the federal government running. Determining how much to steer to different programs is the subject of bills that the House and Senate work on throughout the year. The budget cycle has a regular rhythm, which indicates when action on arms trade matters is likely to be taken and, therefore, when grassroots pressure can be most effective.
Early in the calendar year-usually in late February-the administration submits its budget proposal for the coming fiscal year (FY). The US fiscal year runs from 1 October through 30 September (for example, FY 1998 ends on 30 September 1998). Also in late February, the executive branch sends Congress supporting documents which justify and make the case for its request. The State Department's Congressional Presentation Document for Foreign Operations and its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices are the two volumes most relevant to the arms trade. The former details which foreign forces are slated to receive US military assistance, how much and why, while the latter catalogues the human rights record of all states which receive development or military aid from the United States. Information found in these two documents can be paired up to produce hard-hitting news reports and opinion pieces. (See chapter 7 for tips on obtaining these documents.)
Throughout the Spring, congressional committees hold hearings on each of the 13 spending bills-which together fund all government operations-to determine budget priorities and make policy recommendations. Each program area requires an authorization and an appropriations act. Authorizing bills steer policy and recommend spending levels, while appropriations bills actually allocate money from the US Treasury. Congress must annually approve a budge resolution, generally by "tax day"-15 April-which determines each Appropriations subcommittee's overall spending level. Following this step, the Appropriations subcommittees proceed to work out the specifics of their bills during May-June.
Theoretically, only money that is authorized may be appropriated, but authorization bills are by their nature difficult to pass. They oftentimes become weighted down with divisive issues that make them unacceptable either to the President or to a majority of Congress. When this happens, authorizing language is inserted into an appropriations bill, thereby end-running the requirement. The most relevant annual authorization and appropriations bills are described on p. 59.
Technically, all spending bills originate in the House of Representatives, though the Senate usually considers its own separate version of both appropriations and authorization acts. Any differences in language between the two chambers version of a particular bill must be reconciled in a conference committee (see side bar for more on how a bill becomes law). Once a spending bill clears both the House and the Senate, the House bill number will be the reference number as it works its way to the President for signature and enactment into law. Appropriations bills originate in a relevant subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, while authorization bills start with the respective committee of specialty. For instance, the House International Relations Committee prepares the authorization bill for foreign aid and the State Department, while the Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations prepares the bill that appropriates the funds for these areas.
How a Bill Becomes a Law
In order for a measure to become law, both houses of Congress must pass identical versions of a bill, and the President must sign it. Only Members of Congress may introduce bills, but many are drafted by lobbyists or by the administration and introduced on their behalf.
When a bill is introduced, it is given an identifying number, beginning with S. in the Senate or H.R. in the House. Unless a bill is immediately considered by an entire chamber (called a floor vote), the bill is sent (referred) to one or more relevant congressional committees for review. Referral is usually routine and is based principally on committee jurisdiction. Committee chairmen often refer a bill to one or more relevant subcommittees.
Subcommittees and full committees may approve or reject a bill by vote, or simply do nothing. Bills that are approved (reported out) can leave subcommittee/ committee in their original form or in amended form, or the committee may totally rewrite the bill. Amending (or marking up) a bill allows members of the subcommittee/ committee and their staff to bring their expertise and special interests to the bill.
Once all relevant subcommittees/ committees have considered and approved a bill, it moves to the floor for consideration and amendment by the entire chamber. The rules for consideration of a bill on the floor (such as length of debate and number of amendments that can be offered) are determined by the Rules Committee in the House. In the Senate, anything goes.
When a bill clears one house, it is referred to the other, and the process is repeated. If the House and Senate versions of a bill differ (which they usually do on major legislation), those differences must be resolved in a conference committee, consisting of select members from both parties of the House and Senate committees responsible for the particular bill at hand.
After both chambers have passed identical versions of a bill, it goes to the President, who may sign the bill, veto it or do nothing, in which case the bill becomes law after ten days. A pocket veto occurs when the president withholds approval until the current session of Congress adjourns.
If the legislature does not pass a bill before the end of the two-year Congress in which it was introduced, the bill dies and must be re-introduced in the next Congress. The 105th Congress is currently in session in 1997-98. This Congress will end when lawmakers wrap up their work for the year, probably in October 1998.
Shedding Sunlight on Executive Branch Policies
Individual members of Congress also have the ability to request and publicize information from the executive branch on US arms sales and military aid policies and programs. They can do this in several ways: by holding hearings on the subject, by tasking government research and oversight agencies to conduct investigations or write reports, and by asking specific questions and publishing the administrations response in the Congressional Record and/or reading the reply in a brief speech on the floor of the House or Senate. In doing the later, members of Congress potentially reach very many people, since C-Span broadcasts congressional speeches over cable TV, and the Congressional Record is available over the Internet.
Several committees and subcommittees in both houses of Congress can hold hearings or launch investigations into issues related to arms transfers (see p. 61 for a description of the most relevant committees). The Chair and ranking minority member (the person with the highest seniority on a committee or subcommittee from the minority party) are in the best position to call for specific hearings, although other members can and do press them to conduct hearings on topics of concern. In the 1970s, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held in-depth hearings on fraud and bribery in the conduct of overseas business by US corporations. These seminal hearings were backed up with aggressive investigative work by congressional staff. In recent years, Congress has held special hearings on specific, controversial sales and on the Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers Act, but such hearings are infrequent. Several hearings are routinely held every year to help determine funding levels for military assistance programs, as described above.
|Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been a leader in promoting transparency, oversight and restraint in US arms exports.|
Pressing your congressional representatives to encourage-or, if they are in a position to do so, to hold-hearings on US arms export policy, or some particular aspect of it, is very worthwhile. These hearings, which are open to the public, educate members on the issues and place the administration's activities, perspective and policies on the record. Non-governmental experts (both for and against the arms trade) are also invited to testify before congressional committees on occasion. The information presented at these hearings (prepared testimony and the back and forth of questions and answers), as well as information requested and submitted for the record is made available in the form of a published committee print several months later. These hearings can be found in public and university libraries around the country which serve as depositories for government documents. Published hearings are also available (for free) directly from the issuing committee, and for a minimal charge from Government Printing Office book stores located across the country. Contact information for the congressional committees which are most relevant to arms export policy can be found on p. 61, and information on the location of GPO bookstores is on p. 111. Finding out which hearings have been published is the difficult part. Standard research tools at your local library will be useful for not-so-recent hearings. For more recently-published hearings, your best bet is to phone the committee of interest, or check out its web page-many of which list recent publications.
Congress can also mandate special, one-time or annual reports from the President, Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense on military aid programs or arms sales policy. This ability provides another important way that activists can work with and through Congress. For example, Congress passed a law in 1996 requiring the President (who delegated the responsibility to the Secretary of State) to produce an annual report listing in detailed form all of the weapons exported from the United States to each recipient country in the preceding year. Arms control and human rights advocates worked with sympathetic congressional staff and members of Congress to get the "Section 655" report-named after the section of law which mandates it-established in law.
To ensure that the executive branch responds to these reporting directives in a timely manner, Congress can stipulate that funding for a particular aid recipient or government program be withheld until the report is produced. For example, in 1994 Congress required the State Department to report on allegations that Turkish armed forces were using US-supplied weapons in attacks on civilians and in other violations of Turkish citizens human rights. Ten percent of Turkey's military aid was kept back until the report was submitted. The Ankara government rejected this aid in the end, and the report put some pressure on the executive branch to moderate its support for Turkey's military. Congress required a similar report in 1997.
These special reports are often available for free from the public affairs office of the executive branch agency which issued them. Increasingly, the Commerce, Defense and State Departments publish many of these reports on their Internet sites. The reports on Turkey, for example, are available on the State Department's web page.
Some congressionally-mandated reports can be quite lengthy and elaborate. For example, in 1993 Rep. John Kasich (R-OH) added a provision to the defense authorization bill which required the President to empanel several experts to consider and report on conventional arms proliferation. The White House published the result, Report of the Presidential Advisory Board, in June 1996. It-and other reports-can be ordered from the Government Printing Office for a nominal fee. Some such reports may turn up at large public and university libraries.
The key, again, in obtaining any of these reports is knowing what to ask for. Press coverage of a report usually notes the issuing agency and the title of the report. In addition, bibliographies published by arms control groups (such as that found in our Arms Sales Monitor or on-line from the Center for Defense Information) can point you to relevant reports.
Another point of leverage that Congress has is its ability to request investigations by the General Accounting Office (GAO), the government's watchdog agency. These reports can be requested through legislation, by a House or Senate committee or by an individual member of Congress. Generally, the GAO annually conducts several audits of military assistance programs, weighs the impact of arms sales offsets, and examines the potential for misuse, theft and proliferation of military technology. GAO reports, and a monthly bulletin listing titles and abstracts of recently published reports, are available at no cost through the mail or over the Internet. See p. 110 for more information on tracking down GAO documents.
Finally, Congress also has a research arm-the Congressional Research Service-at its disposal. Part of the Library of Congress, the CRS has a division that deals with foreign affairs and the military. CRS does not provide a public listing of its reports, but through your Representative or Senator's office you can request all or recent CRS studies of a particular topic. (A for-profit company called Penny Hill Press provides a listing of some CRS foreign policy studies on-line at pennyhill.com.) Recent relevant reports have focused on US arms sales policy to Latin America, Congressional review of arms transfers, international military education and training, and the Defense Export Loan Guarantee program. Most noteworthy is CRS' annual report Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations. Usually issued in July or August, this report is a very useful compilation of statistics on the global arms trade (see p. 105).
All of these reports serve a dual role. Not only do they contribute to congressional knowledge about military assistance issues and enable Congress to perform better its oversight and policymaking roles, but they often provide the basis for press reports and other media coverage, raising the profile of the issue.
Championing an Issue
In addition to being able to legislate policy, members of Congress have an elevated platform from which to speak, allowing them to be extraordinarily effective advocates. By speaking on the floor of the Senate or House of Representatives about US arms export policy-in general, or to a specific country-your elected representative reaches not only other members of Congress, but the entire C-Span-viewing and Congressional Record-reading audience. In addition, Senators and/or Representatives can easily get their opinion pieces and letters to the editor published, even in the most exclusive national newspapers. They have a much louder voice than most of us.
Grooming a Representative or Senator to champion an issue is a very important strategy, as is grooming congressional staff. The campaign to ban landmines, for example, has benefitted from the extremely able leadership of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Representative Lane Evans (D-IL) and their staffs. In 1992, Sen. Leahy persuaded his Senate and House colleagues to pass a one-year moratorium on US exports of anti-personnel mines. The next year, through his tireless advocacy, Sen. Leahy got the moratorium extended for three more years. This congressional initiative caused the administration to embrace the landmines issue. The administration then pressured US allies to follow suit in barring mine exports, which many of them did. Senator Leahy and Congressman Evans continue to prod the White House to commit to outlaw the use of mines as quickly as possible, to adequately fund de-mining efforts and to increase assistance to victims of landmines. Sen. Leahy became committed to the landmines cause after a trip to Central America, where he met a mine victim. The Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation-a leader in the anti-mine campaign-has encouraged and facilitated his activism.
The Friends Committee on National Legislation-one of the principal and most effective peace lobbies on Capitol Hill-has published a brochure with tips for adopting a member of Congress. In sum, FCNL suggests that you select among your Representative and Senators the one whom you think will be most receptive to working against military aid and arms sales, given their own particular background and experiences. Then begin communicating regularly with the elected official on the issue through letters and, hopefully, meetings. (See chapter 6 for pointers on communicating with Congress.)
Ask Your Representative or Senator to...
Introduce/support a resolution of disapproval against a particular, dangerous arms sale.
Request a hearing on a particular arms sale.
Request a hearing on general oversight of US arms export programs.
Introduce/cosponsor a bill or an amendment to a bill to reform US arms export policy.
Speak on the floor of the House or Senate in support of a bill or amendment.
Request specific information from the executive branch on some aspect of US arms export policy.
Give a one minute speech on the floor of the House or Senate about US arms export/military aid policy.
Place information about US arms export policy in the Congressional Record.
How to Lobby Effectively
Unless you are a major campaign contributor or an old friend, the reality is that you are unlikely to be able to get your Representative or Senator on the phone or to arrange much face-to-face time with him or her. Most of your interaction will be with his or her defense or foreign affairs legislative assistant. While elected members of Congress make the final decisions and cast the votes, congressional staff play a crucial role in the policymaking process. They serve as a filter, determining very often which information the legislator will see or know about.
Foreign policy and defense staffers can be fresh out of college or former Pentagon policymakers, proponents of your position or vigilant opponents, and everyplace ideologically and professionally in between. Whatever the case, when contacting staff, you must be well-informed and have a clear message about what it is that you want. While the easiest calls to make are ones in which you simply leave a message advocating a position on an issue or a general concern about a particular policy, the more influential contacts are those which lead to a conversation with the legislative assistant handling defense or foreign affairs matters. In that conversation, you do not need to know more than the staffer (though you likely will on the specifics of the issue driving your call), but you do need to be prepared and purposeful. Legislative aides usually cover multiple issues. Unless a topic has gained the attention of the national media, most staffers will only hear about it from you.
Your ability to persuade a staff person to take up and advance your cause is facilitated by establishing and maintaining a good working relationship. Be persistent (but polite and not pesky) in your communication with the aide. Be responsive and follow through on any commitments you make. Send information in a timely manner-just before the vote on your issue, if possible. Help the staff by providing useful information from the home district and by publicizing positive actions taken by the member of Congress in letters-to-the editor, etc. The more personal satisfaction the Representative or Senator and his or her staff get out of working on the issue, the more inclined they will be to stick with it. See the sidebar on the preceding page for some tips from a congressional staffer on effective lobbying.
Ten Ways Grassroots Activists Can Influence Public Policy
Thoughts of an anonymous activist-turned-Hill staffer
1. Help get the right people elected.
2. Develop a relationship with your Senator and Representative. They especially value early and continuing support, which does not have to cost a lot of money. Volunteer for campaigns, host coffees for candidates in your home and get involved with their legislative agendas.
3. Develop a relationship with the DC staffer and field (for Senators) or district (for Representatives) office staff person who handles your issue. Do not just take their time; be able to offer them information or other assistance they need. A grassroots activist with unique expertise can be extremely valuable to a harried staffer.
4. Join together with others who support your cause, or convince existing groups to take it up. Getting legislation passed is a joint project. The players include members of Congress, the administration, advocacy groups and committed individuals.
5. Assemble citizens groups to meet with your Senator or Representative on your issue. These meetings can be either in the field/district office or in the DC office. Meeting with the appropriate staff can be effective, too.
6. Develop a relationship with the local press. Make sure your local media know that you have expertise on the issue. Advocate to the editorial board to take a particular position on the issue. Members of Congress and their staff read a digest of the local press every day.
7. Write letters to the editor. Praise good Senators and Representatives and point out the deficiencies of those whose policies you disagree with.
8. Raise your issue at Senators' and Representatives' town hall meetings. This tactic is very effective in educating the elected official, as well as the other people present.
9. Write letters to your Senator or Representative.*
10. Call the DC or field/district office to express your opinion.*
*Because there has been such a dramatic increase in recent years in the number of personal visits, letters, phone calls, e-mails and faxes arriving in congressional offices, these two count less than they used to. It is still important, of course, to communicate your views and preferences to your elected representatives.
Major Annual Legislation
Following is information on the authorization and apprropriations bills most relevant to arms aid and trade.
Congress has not passed a Foreign Aid Authorization Act into law since 1985. This bill originates in the House International Relations Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Secretary of State presents the administrations funding request for the coming year for military aid programs during hearings before the committees in February and March. Additional representatives of the executive branch, such as the Director of the Defense Security Assistance Agency, the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, and the Under Secretaries of Defense and State will testify and answer questions before the committees throughout the Spring.
Once this initial hearing stage is concluded, the committee staff will draw up the Chairmans mark-the original version of the bill. During the mark-up of various sections of the bill amendments are discussed and added. Depending on the make-up and style of the committee, this point often affords the greatest opportunity for effective grassroots intervention. Logistically, it is much easier to target a subcommittee of nine members or even a full committee of nearly 50 members, than to win a vote on an amendment before the entire House of Representatives. More critically, if a movement can garner the support of the Chairman of the Committee or the requisite subcommittee chairs, success is almost guaranteed at this stage.
Without an authorization bill for the past decade, the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act has been the main vehicle for arms trade and military aid legislation. This bill sets levels of military aid, including foreign military financing, economic support fund, international military education and training, and assistance for anti-terrorism, anti-narcotics and crime control programs. While theoretically the purview of authorization legislation, this bill has become the most relevant legislative vehicle for placing restrictions or conditions on the provision of military aid or equipment to certain recipients. In addition, each years Foreign Operations Appropriations Act usually mandates relevant reports on military aid and arms transfers which are useful for activists, researchers and reporters.
The bill originates in the Foreign Operations Subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. The same cast of characters from the administration appears at the subcommittees hearings, reading the same speeches presented to the foreign relations committees. After hearings and mark-up, the bill is referred to the full Appropriations Committees before being voted on separately by the entire House and Senate. Again, efforts at the initial committee and subcommittee stages provide the best opportunity for citizens to advocate their positions effectively and to get an amendment rejected or approved.
The Defense Authorization Act is the original jurisdiction of the House National Security and the Senate Armed Services Committees. Congress reviews the administration's spending proposal and, with this bill, guides US military policy and spending. In recent years, the defense authorization bill has included policy on arms sales and military training, arms production and military industry conversion, and non-proliferation. Each years Defense Authorization Act usually requires several relevant reports which are useful for activists, researchers and reporters.
Soon after the president formally submits his military budget to Congress in the early Spring, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the heads of each of the military services appear before Congress to defend program choices and spending levels. In the ensuing months, Congress and the administration will debate the merits of many issues including force structure, equipment modernization and personnel policy.
The House and Senate appropriations subcommittees on defense take the lead in crafting the annual Defense Appropriations Act This bill allocates money for the Pentagon, generally in line with the recommendations contained in the defense authorization bill. The appropriation is also concerned with overall trends and directions in the defense budget. In this bill, too, military aid provisions have become increasingly common in recent years, most notably for funds used to administer and finance arms transfers and military training through counter- narcotics programs run by the Pentagon.
Congress influences the activities of the State Department and related semi- independent agencies, such as the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the US Information Agency through the State Department Authorization Act. Since the State Department bears principal responsibility for US arms export policy, this bill has an important impact on US arms sales and non-proliferation policy. With the lack of success in recent years in passing a foreign aid authorization bill, much of what is germane to it has been attached to the State Department authorization instead. In 1997, for example, the House version of this bill contained the Code of Conduct for Arms Transfers, but it was struck from the bill in conference committee.
The relevant House and Senate committees and subcommittees are listed below. If your Representative and/or Senator(s) sit on any of these committees, they are in a position to play a particularly influential role in arms export policymaking. Since Republicans control the 105th Congress, all committee chairs are Republicans and all ranking minority members are Democrats.
As this book is being published, congressional elections are four months away. Undoubtedly the composition of the committees-and of the entire Congress-will change. The committees themselves should endure, but when the Republicans took a majority in the House of Representatives in 1995, they re-named several committees. The phone numbers and updates on the web page citations should remain the same. Contact them for updates on committee membership, names and jurisdiction
The appropriations committees
Among the most powerful committees in Congress, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are responsible for appropriating revenue to support the federal government, along with budget rescissions and changes in spending authority. The subcommittees on defense set initial Pentagon spending levels, including the amount of funds for counter-narcotics arms transfer and military training programs run by the Pentagon. The foreign operations subcommittee appropriates funds for the bulk of US military aid and training programs.
The military committees
These committees have jurisdiction over the Pentagon's weapons procurement, the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons programs, certain intelligence activities and some arms control measures. These committees' annual defense authorization act sets spending levels which are (generally) respected by the appropriations committees.
The foreign affairs committees