As governments on both sides of the Atlantic push for greater defence industrial cooperation, the need for robust controls on transatlantic technology and arms
transfers increases. Efforts to protect and strengthen these controls would be bolstered by more extensive collaboration and information sharing among European and
American NGOs working on arms export issues. Included below is a brief overview of two recent policy initiatives in the United States that could result in significant
changes to controls on the transfer of defence articles and technologies to Europe.
Last fall, the Bush administration initiated a comprehensive, interagency review of defence export controls, often referred to as National Security Presidential
Directive (NSPD) 19. NSPD 19 authorized - and set the parameters for - the review. According to a fact sheet issued by the White House, the review aims to:
- promote greater defence industrial cooperation between the U.S. and its allies,
- identify U.S. weapons acquisition programs that would benefit from increased foreign access to U.S. military technology, and
- weigh the pros and cons of possible modifications to defence licensing policies and practices.
The breadth and degree of the changes that will be proposed at the end of the review are unknown; the Bush administration has not released enough information to draw
even tentative conclusions. Nonetheless, government insiders with knowledge of the administration's priorities are concerned that the policy review will result in
export licensing exemptions and procedural "streamlining" that will weaken U.S. export controls, especially on arms and technology transfers to NATO countries.
These changes could (1) make it harder to prevent U.S. military technology from being diverted to unauthorized recipients operating in Europe and (2) undermine European
NGO efforts to raise the collective export control bar on the continent as the relaxation of the controls of the largest arms exporter in the world would undoubtedly be
used by the opponents of more rigorous controls on European defence articles to advance their own agendas.
The other significant development in transatlantic export control policy is the conclusion of negotiations on the extension of licensing exemptions to the United
Kingdom. The most controversial of the proposals that comprise the Clinton administration's Defence Trade Security Initiative (DTSI) is the exemption of licensing
requirements for commercial arms exports. The exemption is based on a long-standing but often problematic policy of not requiring a licence for the export of many
defence items to Canada. In 2002, the U.S. General Accounting Office reported that countries prohibited from receiving U.S. defence articles had acquired them via
Canada, and that, as a result, the State Department had shortened the list of items that could be shipped license-free. Despite the problems with the Canadian
exemption, the Clinton administration initiated negotiations with the U.K. and Australia on similar arrangements.
After three years of negotiations, the U.S. finally concluded agreements on licensing exemptions with both the UK and Australia. Government and NGO watchdogs have
expressed concern about the exemptions, claiming that they could make prosecuting violations of arms export law more difficult and that they eliminate key pre-license
end-use checks that help prevent diversion. Since the details of the agreements have not been made public, there is no way to know whether these potential problems
have been addressed adequately. If they have not, the licensing exemptions could facilitate the diversion of U.S. defence items to unauthorized end-users.
Greater cooperation and better communication between European and American NGOs would allow for more timely and effective responses to the U.S. administration's
attempts to relax controls on transatlantic arms and technology transfers. Current efforts by U.S. NGOs to build a case against excessive decontrol are hamstrung
by a lack of expertise and data on European export controls, and a lack of awareness of similar efforts by European governments. More interaction between European
and American NGOs working on these issues would help to fill these gaps in information and analysis.