The law firm of choice for internationally focused companies

+263 242 744 677

admin@tsazim.com

4 Gunhill Avenue,

Harare, Zimbabwe

Will Biden’s Conventional Arms Transfer policy be an evolution or a revolution? – Breaking Defense

Sales
of
US
made
weapons
abroad
could
be
impacted
from
the
Biden
administration’s
new
CAT
policy.
(DVIDS)



In
the
coming
weeks,
the
Biden
administration
is
expected
to
release
its
newest
version
of
the
Conventional
Arms
Transfer
(CAT)
policy,
which
will
serve
as
a
clear
sign
on
how
the
administration
will
differentiate
itself
from
the
Trump
administration
on
arms
sales
issues.
In
this
op
ed
Josh
Kirshner
of
Beacon
Global
Strategies
lays
out
a
history
of
the
CAT
policy
and
offers
some
predictions
on
how
it
could
change. 

The
Biden
administration
is
expected
to
soon
release
its
version
of
the
US
Conventional
Arms
Transfer
(CAT)
policy,
which
sets
the
guardrails
for
how
America
sells
arms
to
foreign
militaries. While
the
administration
has
held
its
cards
close
on
what
the
new
policy
will
entail,
it
is
widely
expected
to
put
a
renewed
emphasis
on
the
human
rights
records
of
potential
arms
buyers.

This
is
not
only
because
the
President
has
been

committed
to
promoting
human
rights

throughout
his
career,
including
by
convening
the
first-ever

Summit
for
Democracy

in
December,
but
also
so
he
can
make
clear
that
his
commitment
to
human
rights
differs
from
the
Trump
administration’s,
which
largely
overlooked
such
concerns.

The
question
is,
will
the
Biden
CAT
policy
be
revolutionary,
or
like
most
presidents’
arms
sales
policies,
evolutionary?

Reflecting
the
concerns
of
the
immediate
post-Vietnam
War
period,
President
Jimmy
Carter
followed
through
on
a

campaign
promise

by
publishing
Presidential
Directive/NSC-13
[PDF]
and
a
policy
statement

on
conventional
arms
transfers

the
first
from
a
 US
president.
Carter
made
clear
his
intent:
“The
United
States
can
and
should
take
the
first
step”
in
order
to
reduce
the
supply
of
arms
globally.
He
drew
a
direct
link
to
human
rights,
stating
that
US
security
assistance
programs
“will
promote
and
advance
respect
for
human
rights
in
recipient
countries.”

Not
surprisingly,
President
Ronald
Reagan
took
a
very
different
tact,
and
his

presidential
directive

on
CAT
allowed
for
significantly
more
defense
exports.
Of
the
five
CAT
policies
after
Carter,
this
is
the
only
truly
revolutionary
one.

Reagan
boldly
refuted
Carter’s
rhetoric,
stating
that
the
US
“will
deal
with
the
world
as
it
is,
rather
than
as
we
would
like
it
to
be”
and
proclaimed
that
arms
transfers
would
not
be
“discrete,”
but
instead
an
“essential”
and
“indispensable”
part
of
the
United
States’
effort
to
strengthen
its
national
security
and
defend
the
free
world.
Reagan’s
revolutionary
policy
introduced
the
concept
of
a
“case-by-case”
review
of
sales,
giving
the
government
the
flexibility
to
ignore
its
own
CAT
policy
if
it
sees
fit.

Just
weeks
after
releasing
this
policy,
Reagan

approved

the
world’s
then-largest
arms
sale,
a
$8.5
billion
package
to
Saudi
Arabia
that
included
AWACS
surveillance
aircraft.
The
sale
was
controversial
on
the
Hill,
with
44
senators

including
then-Senator
Joseph
Biden

cosponsoring
a
bill
to
block
the
sale.

Fourteen
years
later,
after
the
end
of
the
Cold
War
in
1995,
President
Bill
Clinton
released
the
nation’s

next
CAT
policy
,
which
in
true
Clintonian
fashion
triangulated
between
the
Carter
and
Reagan
policies.

While
his
policy
echoed
elements
of
Carter’s
intent
of
restraint,
Clinton
emphasized
Reagan’s
case-by-case
concept
by
including
it
in
the
very
first
sentence
of
his
criteria,
and
then
reinforced
the
Republican
president’s
philosophy
by
stating
that
“transfers
of
conventional
arms
[are]
a
legitimate
instrument
of
US
foreign
policy,”
and
reaffirmed
the
link
between
the
health
of
the
defense
industrial
base
and
the
overall
economy.

In
practice,
Clinton
approved
several
significant
arms
sales,
including

$500
million
in
fighter
aircraft

to
Chile. This
reversal
of
Carter’s

refusal

to
sell
advanced
weaponry
to
Latin
America
resulted
in
Senate

legislation

to
show
liberal
opposition
to
the
shift. One
of
the
co-sponsors? Senator
Joseph
Biden.

President
Obama’s

CAT
policy

was
the
first
of
the
post
9/11
era,
more
focused
on
defense
exports
as
a
tool
to
build
partner
capabilities
to
fight
terrorism,
restating
Reagan’s
mantra
that
arms
transfers
are
a
“legitimate
instrument”
of
national
security
policy.

While
the
Obama
policy
discusses
human
rights
in
more
detail
than
previous
versions,
stating
a
need
for
“restraint
against
the
transfer
of
arms
that
would…
serve
to
facilitate
human
rights
abuses…,”
it
does
not
state
that
the
US
should
leverage
defense
export
decisions
to
push
recipients
to
improve
their
human
rights.
The
human
rights
community
would
like
to
see
Biden’s
policy
clearly
state
that
it
will
take
such
an
approach.

For
all
of
the
differences
between
Presidents
Obama
and
Trump,
and
despite
the
commentary
that
President
Trump’s

CAT
policy

was
radically
pro-industry,
the
text
of
his
policy
was
in
truth
evolutionary,
continuing
many
elements
of
the
Obama-era
policy
and
actually
copying
some
language
verbatim.

Where
Trump
differed
from
Obama
significantly
was
in
his
implementation
of
the
policy,
specifically
with
his
White
House’s
willingness
to
work
directly
with
defense
companies,
instead
of
directing
them
to
State
or
Defense.
Senior
White
House
staff
also
made
the
case
to

push
defense
exports

publicly,
making
them
a
key
part
of
Trump’s
economic
agenda.
In
this
COVID
era,
how
closely
Biden
ties
defense
exports
to
job
creation
and
improving
the
manufacturing
sector
is
an
area
to
watch.


What
Might
Biden’s
CAT
Policy
Look
Like?

A
CAT
policy
centrally
focused
on
human
rights
would
be
revolutionary,
recalling
the
views
of
the
senator
from
Delaware
who
consistently
pushed
back
against
presidents
as
they
attempted
to
sell
arms
abroad
in
the
1980s
and
1990s.
However,
there
are
several
reasons
to
believe
that
Biden
will
instead
favor
an
evolutionary
CAT
policy.

First,
Biden
has
made

repairing
frayed
international
partnerships

and
countering
China
core
foreign
policy
tenets.
Increased
defense
cooperation
with
partners,
including
arms
sales,
is
one
way
to
show
the
US
commitment
to
rebuilding
these
relationships.

Second,
as
part
of
his
effort
to
repair
a
US
economy
ravaged
by
COVID-19,
the
president
has

specifically
targeted

assistance
to
the
manufacturing
sector.
The
aerospace
and
defense
industry
supports
over
2.5
million
domestic
jobs
[PDF],
including
highly
skilled
manufacturing,
creating
a
significant
economic
incentive
for
the
White
House
to
enable
this
industry
to
grow.

Third,
he
served
as
Obama’s
vice
president,
and
both
National
Security
Advisor
Jake
Sullivan
and
Secretary
of
State
Tony
Blinken
served
in
prominent
roles
during
the
Obama
administration.
They
had
a
hand
in
crafting
and
implementing
Obama’s
CAT
policy;
it
is
unlikely
their
views
on
arms
sales
have
changed
dramatically
over
the
past
four
years.

Other
changes
we
may
see
in
Biden’s
CAT
policy
include
an
increased
focus
on
protecting
US-origin
military
technology
from
Chinese
intellectual
property
theft,
further
developing
the
US
position
on
exporting
surveillance
technology
(as

discussed

at
the
Summit
for
Democracy),
and
more
detail
on
how
the
government
will
consider
the
export
of
cyber
technologies
to
foreign
militaries.

The
rhetoric
of
Biden’s
CAT
policy
will
likely
make
clear
that
the
Trump
era
of
defense
exports
is
over,
and
human
rights
will
be
a
more
significant
criteria.
Indeed,
sales
went

down
21%

in
fiscal
year
2021,
which
spanned
the
last
three
months
of
the
Trump
administration
and
the
first
nine
months
of
Biden’s.
But
ultimately,
the
practical
result
of
the
policy
will
come
down
to
implementation,
as
Biden
and
his
team
grapple
with
how
to
balance
his
commitment
to
human
rights
with
a
rapidly
evolving
landscape
of
domestic
and
international
challenges.


Josh
Kirshner
previously
served
as
special
assistant
to
the
Under
Secretary
of
State
for
Arms
Control
and
International
Security
and
as
a
professional
staff
member
on
the
House
Permanent
Select
Committee
on
Intelligence.
He
is
currently
a
senior
vice
president
at
Beacon
Global
Strategies.