Press Releases

Washington, DC -- U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) Thursday announced that the Fiscal Year 2009 Omnibus appropriations bill includes a provision they authored to prohibit the sale or transfer of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. The Omnibus bill was signed into law by President Obama on Wednesday, March 11.

The provision was included as part of the State Department and Foreign Operations section of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill.  Senator Leahy chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that handled the Senate’s work in writing that section of the bill.

“This is a key step for the United States and it reinforces the efforts of other countries to stop the carnage caused by cluster munitions,” said Senator Leahy.  “Like Congress’s initiative to ban the export of anti-personnel landmines, this can be a catalyst to prompt a review by the Pentagon of U.S. policy, with a view to rapidly ending the use of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to innocent civilians.”
“This is an important legislative victory.  It sends a signal to the rest of the world that the U.S. government will not sell or transfer dangerous cluster bombs to our allies – unless we can be assured that the munitions will pose no direct threat to civilian communities,”
Senator Feinstein said. “I applaud Senator Leahy for his leadership in getting this sensible provision enacted – and I hope that we will be able to quickly follow suit with another bill we have sponsored to permanently restrict the use of these weapons by U.S. forces, especially in areas where civilians are known to live and work.”  

Specifically, the measure requires that no U.S. military funds will be used for the sale or transfer or cluster bombs, unless:

  • the cluster bombs have a failure rate of 1 percent or less; and 
  • the sale or transfer agreement specifies that the cluster bombs will be used only against clearly defined military targets and not where civilians are known to be present.

Currently, the arsenal of the U.S. military contains 5.5 million cluster bombs, or 728 million bomblets – many of which have a failure rate of 1 percent or higher. 

Previously, a one-year ban on the sale and transfer ban of these dangerous weapons was folded into the Fiscal Year 2008 Omnibus bill. 

Senators Leahy and Feinstein also recently introduced a measure to set similar standards for the use of cluster munitions by U.S. military forces.