CIVIC and 14 human rights, humanitarian, arms control, good governance, and veterans’ organizations sent the below letter to Senator Bob Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Senator James E. Risch, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Congressman Gregory Meeks, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; and Congressman Michael McCaul, Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, urging them to support the National Security Powers Act of 2021 and the National Security Reforms and Accountability Act of 2021, two bipartisan measures that would restore much-needed congressional authority over arms transfers. A PDF of the letter can be found here.
October 26, 2021
Dear Chairman Menendez, Chairman Meeks, Ranking Member Risch, and Ranking Member McCaul,
We, the undersigned human rights, humanitarian, arms control, good governance, and veterans’ organizations, write to urge you to support S. 2391, the National Security Powers Act of 2021 (NSPA), and H.R. 5410, the National Security Reforms and Accountability Act of 2021 (NSRAA), two bipartisan measures that would restore much-needed congressional authority over arms transfers, the most common way the United States contributes to war.
Today, blocking a notified arms transfer under the Arms Export Control Act requires Congress to issue a joint resolution of disapproval, which must be passed by a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate to overcome a likely presidential veto. As a result, Congress has never successfully prevented a notified arms transfer through legislation even in instances of overwhelming bipartisan opposition, as was the case with the 2019 sale of billions of dollars of arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Arms sales should not continue after Congress has voted to block them. The NSPA and NSRAA would reestablish much-needed congressional oversight over arms transfers by “flipping the script,” requiring Congress to affirmatively authorize foreign military sales and direct commercial sales of the most dangerous and destabilizing weapons. Based on past notification data, this would only require votes on approximately 60 cases per year, many of which could be packaged together to reduce the number of votes. These bills would also restrict the emergency waiver that has allowed presidents to bypass congressional review.
We have seen U.S. weapons used to devastate civilian communities in armed conflict, enable human rights abuses, fuel corruption, and facilitate impunity for harm. At a time when the executive branch can circumvent congressional concerns and sell weapons indiscriminately, it is clear that our current arms transfer system is broken. The NSPA and NSRAA offer much-needed reforms that would begin to reassert the legislature’s constitutional oversight role and promote a more democratic approach to national security. We urge you to support this critical legislation.
Action on Armed Violence
Arms Control Association
Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)
Center for International Policy
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Human Rights Watch
Open Society Policy Center
Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
Win Without War
Women for Weapons Trade Transparency