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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 17, 1995
                             FACT SHEET
                  Conventional Arms Transfer Policy

U.S. conventional arms transfer policy promotes restraint, both by the U.S. and other suppliers, in transfers of weapons systems that may be destabilizing or dangerous to international peace. At the same time, the policy supports transfers that meet legitimate defense requirements of our friends and allies, in support of our national security and foreign policy interests.
Our record reflects these considerations. U.S. arms sales remain close to our historical average -- approximately $12 billion in government-to- government sales agreements in FY 1994. U.S. arms deliveries have also remained flat. Sales and deliveries sales have been primarily to allies and major coalition partners such as NATO member states and Israel.

U.S. Goals

The policy issued by the President will serve the following goals:

  1. To ensure that our military forces can continue to enjoy technological advantages over potential adversaries.
  2. To help allies and friends deter or defend themselves against aggression, while promoting interoperability with U.S. forces when combined operations are required.
  3. To promote regional stability in areas critical to U.S. interests, while preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their missile delivery systems.
  4. To promote peaceful conflict resolution and arms control, human rights, democratization, and other U.S. foreign policy objectives.
  5. To enhance the ability of the U.S. defense industrial base to meet U.S. defense requirements and maintain long-term military technological superiority at lower costs.

Supporting Arms Control and Arms Transfer Restraint

A critical element of U.S. policy is to promote control, restraint, and transparency of arms transfers. To that end, the U.S. will push to increase participation in the UN Register of Conventional Arms. We will also take the lead to expand the Register to include military holdings and procurement through national production, thereby providing a more complete picture of change in a nation's military capabilities each year.
The U.S. will also support regional initiatives to enhance transparency in conventional arms such as those being examined by the OAS and ASEAN, and will continue to adhere to the London and OSCE guidelines, while promoting adherence to such principles by others. The United States will continue its efforts to establish a successor export control regime to the Cold-War era COCOM. Our goals for this regime are to increase transparency of transfers of conventional arms and related technology, to establish effective international controls and to promote restraint -- particularly to regions of tension and to states that are likely to pose a threat to international peace and security.
The United States will also continue vigorous support for current arms control and confidence-building efforts to constrain the demand for destabilizing weapons and related technology. The United States recognizes that efforts such as those under way in the Middle East and Europe bolster stability in a variety of ways, ultimately decreasing the demand for arms in these vital regions. The United States will act unilaterally to restrain the flow of arms in cases where unilateral action is effective or necessitated by overriding national interests. Such restraint would be considered on a case-by-case basis in transfers involving pariah states or where the U.S. has a very substantial lead on weapon technology, where the U.S. restricts exports to preserve its military edge or regional stability, where the U.S. has no fielded countermeasures, or where the transfer of weapons raises issues involving human rights or indiscriminate casualties, such as anti-personnel landmines. Finally, the U.S. will assist other suppliers to develop effective export control mechanisms to support responsible export policies. The United States will also continue to provide defense conversion assistance to the states of the former Soviet Union and Central Europe as a way of countering growing pressures to export.

Supporting Responsible U.S. Transfers

Once an approval for a transfer is made, the U.S. Government will provide support for the proposed U.S. export. In those cases the United States will take such steps as tasking our overseas mission personnel to support overseas marketing efforts of American companies bidding on defense contracts, actively involving senior government officials in promoting sales of particular importance to the United States, and supporting official Department of Defense participation in international air and trade exhibitions when the Secretary of Defense, in accordance with existing law, determines such participation to be in the national interest and notifies Congress.

Decisionmaking on U.S. Arms Exports: Criteria and Process

Given the complexities of arms transfer decisions and the multiple U.S. interests involved in each arms transfer decision, decisions will continue to be made on a case-by-case basis. These case-by-case reviews will be guided by a set of criteria that draw the appropriate balance between legitimate arms sales to support the national security of our friends and allies, and the need for multilateral restraint against the transfer of arms that would enhance the military capabilities of hostile states or that would undermine stability.