A $60 billion
The letter, coordinated by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the panel’s ranking member, was sent to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates nine days before the expiration of the legally required congressional review period.
In the Nov. 10 letter, legislators questioned “the rationale for a sale of such magnitude” to Saudi Arabia, citing concerns about the sale’s impact on regional stability and its challenge to Israel’s “qualitative military edge” (QME).
The letter also indicated doubts about
Clinton and Gates responded to the questions in a letter dated Nov. 16, defending Saudi counterproliferation efforts. They argued that
They described Saudi cooperation on nuclear energy as positive, identifying a 2008 memorandum of understanding that “contains a statement of intent by
Gates and Clinton also identified border and trade control issues as an important area of ongoing cooperation. In January 2011, a senior Saudi delegation is expected to visit
The secretaries’ response addressed concerns that the U.S.-Saudi sale will undermine
The Obama administration provided formal notification to Congress on Oct. 20, which marked the start of the 30 calendar days mandated by the Arms Export Control Act for legislators to review such deals.
On Nov. 18, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) introduced a joint resolution (H.J. Res. 99) in an attempt block the sale. Congress did not act on the resolution, which had two co-sponsors, Reps. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) and Christopher Carney (D-Pa.).
The deal includes 84 F-15SA tactical fighters, the upgrade of
The sale also includes munitions: 500 AIM-120C/7 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles, 1,000 joint direct attack munitions (JDAMs), more than 2,000 additional laser- and GPS-guided bombs, more than 4,000 Hellfire missiles, and 1,300 cluster bombs. The export of the sensor-fused cluster bombs in the sale are permitted under
During an Oct. 20 press briefing announcing the sale, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro stated that the “final amount of the sale may well be less than the not-to-exceed estimate” of $60 billion.
Shapiro and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Alexander Vershbow also told reporters that
Vershbow said some of the helicopters included in the deal have “potential roles” against a rebel group, the Houthis, that has been fighting the Yemeni government since 2004.
In their letter, Clinton and Gates said, “
Congress can block an arms sale by passing a joint resolution of disapproval, which prohibits the executive branch from issuing a formal letter of offer.
For most countries, including
After the 30-day notification period has passed, Congress can intervene in the arms sale by passing laws that block parts of the sale or the entire sale.
Previous Sales Challenged
The Bush administration notified Congress in January 2008 of its intention to sell Saudi Arabia 900 JDAM bomb guidance kits. A joint resolution of disapproval was introduced into the House and the Senate, but did not pass.
The Senate resolution was introduced after the 30-day notification period for the JDAMs and encompassed three other
In 1986, Congress voted 73-22 for a joint resolution of disapproval (S.J. Res. 316) blocking the sale of Sidewinder, Harpoon, and Stinger missiles to
This June, the Congressional Research Service reported that, between 1950 and 2006, the
In the Nov. 10 letter, the legislators cited a September Government Accountability Office report that said the Department of State and the Department of Defense “did not consistently document how arms transfers to [Persian] Gulf countries advanced U.S. foreign policy and national security goals.”