U.S. Senate Scrutinizes Defense Trade Treaties with Australia, UK

 - June 16, 2008, 11:54 AM

Treaties that aim to clear longstanding bureaucratic hurdles to the transfer of defense technology to Australia and the UK were sent to the U.S. Congress for ratification last month. Both countries have complained publicly about U.S. Defense and State Department procedures that inhibit industrial and military cooperation. A year ago, U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair signed the U.S.-UK Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty. Since then, officials from both governments have been negotiating the details, or “implementing arrangements.” But legislators on Capitol Hill have previously rejected measures to ease defense trade with U.S. allies. While broadly welcoming the new treaties, Sen. Dick Lugar, ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for more clarity on the implementing arrangements. In the UK, there are concerns that senators could object to non-UK-owned companies being included on the mutually approved list of those who may enjoy the benefits of the treaty. The UK wants this list to include British defense companies owned by European entities such as EADS, Finmeccanica (such as AgustaWestland and Selex) and Thales. These companies have already satisfied the UK authorities that they can properly safeguard classified information. The benefits of the treaty include freedom from licensing and other written authorization, such as  the burdensome technical assistance agreement and international traffic in arms regulations. But the most sensitive and highly classified technology are excluded from the treaty. This is believed to include low-observables (i.e. stealth) and cryptographic technology, to which the old regime will still apply. The British Embassy in Washington, D.C., is lobbying heavily for the treaty behind the scenes, AIN was told. A two-thirds majority in the Senate is required to ratify the treaty.