President Trump Violates Letter and Spirit of Buy American Act and the Berry Amendment in Saudi Arms Deal
Congress passed the Berry Amendment in 2001 to make sure that the Department of Defense purchased weapons and other defense materials from domestic sources. This law ensures that the United States is not reliant on foreign sources for weapons and supplies. Contrary to the Berry Amendment and other “buy American” laws, President Trump announced that he is allowing Raytheon-made Paveway smart bombs to be co-manufactured in Saudi Arabia. Trump claims this is an emergency situation, which it clearly is not.
This transaction will give the Saudis access to U.S. technology to produce its own version of these high-tech bombs. The Trump administration pressed ahead with this deal without congressional approval, declaring an “emergency” based on what it said was a heightened threat from Iran.
The dealcame as a surprise to lawmakers, who were outraged that the administration chose to bypass Congress. Most members of Congress only learned of this deal days after it was announced on May 24th. Congressional aides reported that this deal opens the door for Saudi Arabia to host the production of electronic guidance and control systems for Paveway precision-guided bombs.
Lawmakers opposed to the deal said the production scheme sends the wrong signal to Saudi Arabia given its human rights record and its air war in Yemen. It also raised security concerns about sharing so-called “smart bomb” technology with Riyadh and undercut one of President Donald Trump’s arguments for selling weapons to the Saudis to generate jobs in the United States.
“The concerns over this sale are only one more reason showing the importance of congressional review and why it is deeply disturbing that the Trump administration is trying to circumvent the law and Congress to give the Saudis not only American jobs but also American weapons technology,” Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said.
Human rights, U.N. investigators and aid groups have accused Saudi Arabia of striking civilian targets, including hospitals and schools, in indiscriminate bombing raids in Yemen since the Saudis launched an armed intervention against Houti rebels in 2015. Congressional resistance to weapons sales to Saudi Arabia only developed after the brutal murder last year of Saudi writer and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Two senators introduced a bill designed to force a vote on current and future U.S. arms sales and other military support to Saudi Arabia, saying it was time lawmakers checked President Donald Trump’s attempts to bypass Congress on foreign policy.
The bill, sponsored by Sens. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who both sit on the Foreign Relations Committee, marks the latest response by lawmakers who strongly oppose selling weapons to Saudi Arabia. “The process we are setting in motion will allow Congress to weigh in on the totality of our security relationship with Saudi Arabia, not just one arms sale, and restore Congress’s role in foreign policy-making,” Murphy announced.
Murphy and Young’s resolution would allow Congress to vote on not only the expedited arms deal, but to block or restrict future weapons sales and military assistance to Saudi Arabia.