AFJN Signs Letter Rejecting Building Foreign Militaries in the 2009 Defense Authorization Act

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This week, AFJN joined 25 other organizations in signing a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee opposing the “Building Partnership Capacity of Foreign Military and Other Security Forces” in the Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year 2009. The Senate is marking up their version of the bill this week and will determine how much funding should go into training and equipping of foriegn militaries. This element of the bill will have serious repercussions on the people of Africa, particularly because it will give the President or Secretary of State the ability to waive any provisions that prohibit U.S. assistance from being delivered to countries that commit gross human rights abuses. AFJN sees this legislation as part and parcel of the militarization of the African continent, having a direct impact on AFRICOM and the role of the U.S. military abroad. 

Full text and signatories of the letter:

April 28, 2008

Dear Chairman Levin and Ranking Member McCain,

We encourage you not to include the Pentagon-proposed legislation entitled “Building the Partnership Capacity of Foreign Military and other Security Forces” in your mark-up of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2009.

This proposal would give the Department of Defense permanent authority to spend up to $750 million annually on weapons and other military equipment for foreign governments of its choosing to build up their military, police and other internal security forces to “combat terrorism and enhance stability.”

We greatly appreciate the reporting requirement that the Committee included in the NDAA for FY2008, mandating a report due 180 days after enactment (June 2008), requiring the DOD to compile all training and aid provided to countries under several new authorities.  We encourage you to not include an expansion of these programs in the NDAA for FY2009 until, at a minimum, you receive that report and have an opportunity to assess the magnitude, scope and impacts of these programs in recipient countries.

The DOD’s proposed legislative initiative for FY2009 would make permanent a temporary authority originally included in Section 1206 of the NDAA for FY2006, to deal with unforeseen emergencies, as a supplement to longstanding foreign military assistance programs.

The proposed legislation would allow the President and/or the Secretary of State to waive all congressionally-mandated provisions within the Foreign Assistance Act that prevent assistance from going to countries that commit gross human rights violations, experience a military coup, engage in nuclear proliferation, or condone human trafficking, child soldiers, or religious intolerance.  It would also allow training and weapons to be provided to police, paramilitary and other non-defense forces. Additionally, it is unclear to what extent the Defense Department would be required to follow long-standing U.S. laws and regulations to ensure that U.S. weapons are not diverted to unwanted recipients.

Congress has codified these restrictions on foreign assistance for sound policy reasons, and it has safeguarded the tradition of diplomatic control over military assistance in foreign countries in order to ensure that U.S. foreign policy is consistent and does not undercut our long-term policy and goals.

While the Pentagon’s legislative proposal requires that the Secretary of State must concur with DOD decisions before they may go forward, we believe this process is skewed toward a willingness to promote a military relationship with too many countries—at the expense of long-term foreign policy interests, including the promotion of good and democratic governance.

More generally, we encourage the Committee to consider developing benchmarks that countries must meet before they can receive military assistance under DOD programs—similar to indicators the Millennium Challenge Corporation uses to measure good governance before providing development funds. Doing so would ensure that U.S. taxpayer funds are not misspent on corrupt or non-democratic governments that might use the equipment and training to suppress democratic development and retain autocratic rule.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. We look forward to working with you in the future on this important issue.

Sincerely,

3D Security

Africa Action

Africa Faith and Justice Network

American Friends Service Committee

Center for International Policy

Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America

Church World Service

Citizens for Global Solutions

East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)

Episcopal Church

Interaction

Foreign Policy In Focus, Institute for Policy Studies

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Oxfam America

Peace Action

Peace Action West

Presbyterian Church (USA), Washington Office

Refugees International

Resolve Uganda

TransAfrica Forum

Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries

United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society

Washington Office on Latin America

Women’s Action for New Directions

For more information, please contact:

Ann Vaughan, Legislative Representative, Friends Committee on National Legislation (202-903-2528 ann@fcnl.org)

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