Trump Violates Buy American Act and Berry Amendment in Saudi Arms Deal
(August 1, 2019) — Congress passed the Berry Amendment in 2001 to make sure that the Department of Defense purchased weapons and other defense materials from domestic sources. This law ensures that the United States is not reliant on foreign sources for weapons and supplies.
Contrary to the Berry Amendment and other “buy American” laws, President Trump announced that he is allowing Raytheon-made Paveway smart bombs to be co-manufactured in Saudi Arabia. Trump claims this is an emergency situation, which it clearly is not.
This transaction will give the Saudis access to US technology to produce its own version of these high-tech bombs. The Trump administration pressed ahead with this deal without congressional approval, declaring an “emergency” based on what it said was a heightened threat from Iran.
The deal came as a surprise to lawmakers, who were outraged that the administration chose to bypass Congress. Most members of Congress only learned of this deal days after it was announced on May 24. Congressional aides reported that this deal opens the door for Saudi Arabia to host the production of electronic guidance and control systems for Paveway precision-guided bombs.
Lawmakers opposed to the deal said the production scheme sends the wrong signal to Saudi Arabia given its human rights record and its air war in Yemen. It also raised security concerns about sharing so-called “smart bomb” technology with Riyadh and undercut one of President Donald Trump’s arguments for selling weapons to the Saudis — to generate jobs in the United States.
“The concerns over this sale are only one more reason showing the importance of congressional review and why it is deeply disturbing that the Trump administration is trying to circumvent the law and Congress to give the Saudis not only American jobs but also American weapons technology,” Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said.
Human rights, UN investigators and aid groups have accused Saudi Arabia of striking civilian targets, including hospitals and schools, in indiscriminate bombing raids in Yemen since the Saudis launched an armed intervention against Houti rebels in 2015. Congressional resistance to weapons sales to Saudi Arabia only developed after the brutal murder last year of Saudi writer and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Two senators introduced a bill designed to force a vote on current and future US arms sales and other military support to Saudi Arabia, saying it was time lawmakers checked President Donald Trump’s attempts to bypass Congress on foreign policy.
The bill, sponsored by Sens. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who both sit on the Foreign Relations Committee, marks the latest response by lawmakers who strongly oppose selling weapons to Saudi Arabia. “The process we are setting in motion will allow Congress to weigh in on the totality of our security relationship with Saudi Arabia, not just one arms sale, and restore Congress’s role in foreign policy-making,” Murphy announced.
Murphy and Young’s resolution would allow Congress to vote on not only the expedited arms deal, but to block or restrict future weapons sales and military assistance to Saudi Arabia.
“Our arms sales to Saudi Arabia demand Congressional oversight,” Senator Young said. “This bipartisan resolution simply asks the Secretary of State to report on some basic questions before moving forward with them. The ongoing humanitarian crisis and complicated security environment in Yemen requires our sustained attention and we cannot permit U.S. military equipment to worsen the situation on the ground.”
Murphy said the administration “has effectively given a blank check to the Saudis — turning a blind eye to the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi and allowing their ballistic missile program to expand,” and added: “Congress needs to change how we do business with the Kingdom.”
In a vote in March to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen and to curtail presidential war powers, seven Republican senators sided with Democrats to pass the bill. However, Trump vetoed the legislation in May.
The Saudi Deal Must be Stopped
Outsourcing high-tech bomb production to Saudi Arabia is a horrendous idea. Outsourcing defense procurement to any country is bad policy that undercuts our ability to defend ourselves. Outsourcing to an undemocratic, murderous regime, is the worst policy possible, allowing tyrants to use American technology and production techniques to kill civilians and others.
It remains unclear how many more Republicans will join Democratic senators to form a sufficient majority to overcome a future presidential veto on the new resolutions being proposed to stop the Saudi arms deal. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, including staunch Trump ally Lindsey Graham, have blasted the arms deal, and senators have announced 22 resolutions against it—one for each sale.
Apart from setting up votes on weapons deals for Riyadh, the resolutions would also force the administration to offer a public accounting to Congress on the kingdom’s human rights record.
The Trump administration has yet to provide a report to Congress, as required by law, whether Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was personally responsible for the death of Khashoggi, who was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Congress, as a co-equal branch of government, must not allow the Trump Administration to override Congress’s power of the purse and its right to declare war.
No president should be allowed to unilaterally declare a phony “emergency” to usurp legislative authority to circumvent the Constitutional separation of powers.
Joel Joseph is chairman of the Made in the USA Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting American-made products. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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