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Congress and International Defense Cooperation Agreements

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Journal article

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In the area of international cooperative weapons agreements -- whether they be to sell weapons or to codevelop and coproduce them with our allies -- the Congress now plays a very significant role in reviewing and possibly overturning negotiations completed by the Department of Defense. No multinational program manager can afford to ignore this Congressional oversight authority as he or she plans and conducts negotiations with allied military establishments. While we tend to think of Congress as involving itself primarily in the sale of arms and weapons, its statutory review powers extend as well to memoranda of understanding MOUs where U.S. weapons, equipment, or technology are transferred to foreign governments. Memoranda of understanding are formal written arrangements between governments setting forth the conditions under which they intend to cooperate in given areas, and are to be contrasted with Letters of Offer and Acceptance LOAs used in Foreign Military Sales FMS. Congressional review powers over MOUs can and will be exercised not only when military aspects of our national security are considered on Capitol Hill, but also when economic or political aspects catch the attention of members of Congress. In addition, since 1985 the Congress has mandated that the Department of Defense shall reduce weapons costs and duplication by developing arms in concert with our NATO allies. This requires a greater number of multinational negotiations by DoD officials and gives Congress another basis for oversight as it reviews compliance with this directive. This article explores the basis for Congressional oversight of international technology transfers, how that oversight is exercised, and what factors attract special Congressional attention.

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  • Economics and Cost Analysis
  • Government and Political Science
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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