22 February 1997
Source: http://www.acda.gov/wmeat95/essay95.htm


The past year saw two important developments in the policy of the United States Government regarding the control of conventional arms and associated dual-use goods and technologies. The first, in February 1995, was the formulation and issuance by the White House of the President's major new statement of overall U.S. policy governing exports, or "transfers," of conventional arms (see Note 1). The second, in December 1995, was the reaching of an international agreement on the initial framework of the "Wassenaar Arrangement," a new, global regime to increase transparency and responsibility of trade in conventional arms and dual-use goods and technology. It succeeds the so-called "COCOM" (see Note 2) regime for multilateral controls on exports to communist countries during the Cold War.

The U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, along with the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce, took part in the formulation, negotiations, and implementation of these new policies and actions. They are described in the following sets of documentary and discussion texts regarding each of the two developments.

Note 1 - Statement by White House Press Secretary Michael McCurry and fact sheets released by the White House, Office of the Press Secretary, February 17, 1995. Discussion by the Weapons Technology and Control Division, Nonproliferation and Regional Arms Control Bureau, ACDA.

Note 2 - The Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls. See "The Wassenaar Arrangement," below.


The President's Policy on the Transfer of Conventional Arms

Fact Sheet: Conventional Arms Transfer Policy

Fact Sheet: Criteria for Decisionmaking on U.S. Arms Exports


The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies


The Wassenaar Arrangement -- An address by Lynn E. Davis, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, given to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington D.C. on January 23, 1996.

The President's Policy on the Transfer of Conventional Arms

Statement of Policy

The President has approved a comprehensive policy to govern transfers of conventional arms. This policy, as detailed in the attached fact sheets, serves our nation's security in two important ways. First, it supports transfers that meet the continuing security needs of the United States, its friends, and allies. Second, it restrains arms transfers that may be destabilizing or threatening to regional peace and security.

This policy reflects an approach toward arms transfers that has guided the Administration's decisions over the last two years. Specifically, the United States continues to view transfers of conventional arms as a legitimate instrument of U.S. foreign policy-deserving U.S. Government support- when they enable us to help friends and allies deter aggression, promote regional security, and increase interoperability of U.S. and allied forces. Judging when a specific transfer will meet that test requires examination of the dynamics of regional power balances and the potential for destabilizing changes in those regions. The criteria guiding those case-by-case examinations are set forth in the attached guidelines for U.S. decision-making on conventional arms transfers.

The centerpiece of our efforts to promote multilateral restraint is our initiative to work with allies and friends to establish a successor regime to COCOM. The new regime should establish effective international controls on arms sales and the transfer of sensitive technologies-particularly to regions of tension and to states that pose a threat to international peace and security. While pursuing multilateral restraint through this and other mechanisms, such as the UN Conventional Arms Register and regional initiatives, the United States will exercise unilateral restraint in cases where overriding national security or foreign policy interests require us to do so.

Fact Sheet: Conventional Arms Transfer Policy

The 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:

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. also will 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 underway 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 weapons technology; where the U.S. restricts exports to preserve its military edge or regional stability; where the U.S. has no fielded counter-measures; 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 in developing effective export control mechanisms to support responsible export policies. The United States also will 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.

Decision-making on U.S. Arms Exports: Criteria and Process

Given the complexities of arms-transfer decisions and the multiple U.S. interests involved in each 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.

Fact Sheet: Criteria for Decisionmaking on U.S. Arms Exports

Given the complexities of arms-transfer decisions and the multiple U.S. interests involved in each arms-transfer decision, the U.S. Government will continue to make arms-transfer decisions on a case-by-case basis. These reviews will be guided by the criteria below.

General Criteria

All arms-transfer decisions will take into account the following criteria:

Upgrade Criteria

Upgrades of equipment-particularly that of former Soviet-bloc manufacture-is a growing segment of the market. The U.S. Government should support U.S. firms' participation in that market segment to the extent consistent with our own national security and foreign policy interests. In addition to the above general criteria, the following guidelines will govern U.S. treatment of upgrades:


In February 1995, the White House announced the President's Conventional Arms Transfer (CAT) Policy, which emphasizes multilateral restraint, set forth criteria for case-by-case decision-making on U.S. arms exports, and continues support for transfers that serve U.S. interests.

The policy's balancing of foreign policy and national security interests gives a prominent place to arms control. Its criteria for evaluating proposed transfers explicitly include arms control and regional stability considerations. The policy emphasizes a number of arms control and nonproliferation objectives, including the need to:

ACDA played an integral part in the development of the Administration's policy. The same will be true of its implementation, where ACDA will continue to subject proposed U.S. arms transfers to a rigorous arms control evaluation, as required by statute. Further, in response to the changing world situation and in an effort to bring more focus to the new CAT policy, ACDA and other agencies have been developing "regional" policies that take into account the specific situation encountered in each area. Such policies clarify the pros and cons of potential transfers in view of the regional dynamic, avoiding the pitfalls of piecemeal approaches and resulting in more proactive and consistent arms transfers decisions. In 1995 our effort focused on developing such policies for Central Europe, South America, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.

Go to: The Wassenaar Arrangement