Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Reform Act of 2008

April 29, 2008
May 19, 2008
Referred to Senate (sub)committee

4 cosponsors

The bill implements reforms in how the U.S. designates military assistance to other countries. Part of the bill codifies in legislation the MoU signed between the U.S. and Israel on 16 August 2007 calling for a 10-year, $30 b. package of military assistance to Israel.

Title II of the bill, “Security Assistance and Related Support for Israel,” includes the following:

Section 201 requires the president to carry out an assessment, based on “empirical and qualitative” criteria, of the “extent to which Israel possesses a qualitative military edge [QME] over military threats to Israel.” Arms sales to other countries in the Middle East will be conditioned on whether they undermine Israel’s QME based on these criteria. The report must be submitted to the appropriate congressional committees within 180 days of the bill’s passage and every four years thereafter.

Section 202 requires the president to submit a report to Congress containing a “complete, unedited, and unredacted copy” of every U.S. assurance to Israel regarding its security and maintenance of its QME from 1 January 1975 until enactment of this bill. Additionally, the president must provide an analysis of whether or not each assurance has been fulfilled and how “it has been and is continuing to be fulfilled.” Any revision to these agreements or new assurance made to Israel must be reported to Congress within 15 days, and a comprehensive report regarding all assurances and revisions must be given to Congress every five years.

Section 203 extends through FY2010 the president’s authority to transfer to Israel, in exchange for “concessions negotiated by Secretary of Defense,” excess or obsolete weapons and munitions from regional U.S. stockpiles.

Section 204 authorizes FY2009 military aid to Israel under the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) Program. The amount of aid is calculated as the amount of FMF grants appropriated for Israel in FY2008, plus $150 m. to be dispersed within 30 days of enactment of the relevant appropriations bill, or by 10/31/08, whichever occurs later. Of the total amount, Israel may use $670.65 m. for procurement of defense equipment and services, including research and development, in Israel.

Section 205 defines “qualitative military edge” as “the ability to counter and defeat any credible conventional military threat from any individual state or possible coalition of states or from non-state actors, while sustaining minimal damages and casualties, through use of superior military means, possessed in sufficient quality, including weapons, command, control, communication, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities that, in their technical characteristics, are superior in capability to those of such other individual or possible coalition of states or non-state actors.”

Additionally, the bill states that the goal of the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls will be to process applications to export items on the United States Munitions List (USML) to Israel within 30 days and other defense items within 15 days—the same expedited processing granted to NATO members The bill requires the secy. of state to submit a report to the appropriate congressional committees detailing the average processing time of these applications by year-end 2010 and 2011 and allows the president to issue special licensing authorizations for the export to Israel of spare or replacement parts for defense items. It also allows the sale of the following to Israel without the statutory review periods (30 days for items on the USML and 15 days for other defense items): defense articles or services under $200 m., design or construction services under $300 m., and major defense equipment under $75 m. In effect, this will make possible expedited arms sales to Israel, although an informal review process will still be conducted by the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Relations.

Sections 201, 204, and 205 o

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