September 10, 1999

 

Members of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee

United States House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

 

Dear Representative:

 

We are writing as participants of the Arms Transfer Working Group—a Washington-based alliance of arms control, human rights, and religious groups seeking greater restraint on U.S. arms transfers and military aid—to urge your support on the following elements of the FY 2000 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act (H.R. 2606).

The provisions listed below were only included in one of the two passed versions of the bill. We therefore ask that you work with colleagues in the Conference Committee to keep these important elements in the final bill.

 

ü     Promotion of an International Arms Transfers Regime: Section 589 of the Senate version instructs the administration to begin negotiations towards a permanent multilateral arms transfer regime, which would set specific minimum criteria for arms transfers. By encouraging U.S. leadership on an international agreement, Congress would take the first step towards preventing dictators and unstable regimes from accessing arms from the U.S. and our allies.

 

ü     School of the Americas: Section 589 of the House version prohibits funds made available by the act—about $2 million—for programs at the U.S. Army School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. The School of the Americas has a history of providing military training to Latin American officers and soldiers who later have committed gross violations of human rights. Despite criticism from Congress, the press, and citizens groups, the School has done little to demonstrate to foreign students or to the American public that human rights and proper civil-military relations are as, if not more, important as lessons in lethal tactics and combat strategy.

ü     More funds to Child Survival and Disease Programs Fund: The House version of H.R. 2606 reduces International Military Education and Training funds by $5 million and increases the Child Survival and Disease Programs Fund by the same amount. This shift of funds sends the message that Congress views an investment in childhood disease prevention as more beneficial to a country’s well-being than an equal amount of military training. We strongly support this shift of funds.

We are also concerned by the large budget for the State Department’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) account, which funds and implements anti-narcotics programs throughout the world. Increasingly large sums of counter-narcotics aid to supplier and transit states have not reduced the flow of drugs into the U.S. Instead, this aid has undermined regional trends toward demilitarization in Latin America, strengthening militaries at the expense of civilian institutions and putting U.S. assistance into the hands of human rights violators. Of the two versions of the Foreign Operations bill, therefore, we prefer the Senate’s lower spending level of $215 million for INL. With a finite amount of foreign operations funds, lowering the amount of counter-narcotics aid would free up resources for other economic assistance to Latin America, which has dropped by two-thirds this decade. The promotion of economic development in Latin America is a key element of any long-term plan to reduce dependency on drug production.

Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to express support for elements of the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill that appear in both the House and Senate versions: the requirement for a joint State and Defense Department report to Congress on foreign military training, the limitation on assistance to security forces to units without a history of human rights abuses, and the prohibition of aid to any state the government of which was deposed of by military coup or decree. Given that these provisions have been part of the Foreign Operations Appropriations legislation for at least two years in a row and therefore have solid congressional support, we also seek your help in urging Congress to make them permanent law.

 

Sincerely yours,

 


 


Susan Alan

Director, St. Louis Economic Conversion Project

 

Mike Amitay

Executive Director

Washington Kurdish Institute

 

Loyce Swartz Borgmann

Coordinator, Church of the Brethren Washington Office

 

J. Daryl Byler

Director, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office

 

Peter J. Davies

US Representative, Saferworld

 

Jordana Friedman

Director, International Security Program

Council on Economic Priorities

 

Tamar Gabelnick

Director, Arms Sales Monitoring Project

Federation of American Scientists and

Chair, Arms Transfer Working Group

Martha Honey

Director, Peace and Security Program,

Institute for Policy Studies

 

Kate Joseph

British American Security Information Council

 

Maurice Paprin

Co-chairman, Fund for New Priorities in America

 

Kimberly Robson

Director of Policy and Programs

Women's Action for New Directions

 

Robert C. Vandivier

National Secretary, Veterans for Peace

 

Joe Volk

Executive Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation