Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today introduced the Secure F-35 Exports Act of 2021, legislation to reassert Congressional oversight over the sale of sophisticated and mission-critical American military systems. The legislation comes on the heels of the Biden administration’s reported decision to proceed with the sale of $23 billion in weapon sales including the F-35 aircraft to the United Arab Emirates, a deal that was originally rushed through by the Trump administration.
The Secure F-35 Exports Act of 2020 ensures that any such sale will not proceed to delivery of aircraft unless and until the President can make detailed certifications to Congress that the United States’ aircraft technology and Israel’s security are fully protected.
“Congress has an obligation to uphold U.S. policy and ensure that weapons sales to foreign governments don’t undermine Israel’s military edge. Our bill achieves that goal by restricting sales of the F-35 – our most sophisticated aircraft – until the administration certifies to Congress that the sale complies with that objective,” said Senator Feinstein. “I’m proud to join Senator Menendez in introducing this bill to solidify Congress’ role in overseeing arms sales.”
“I remain concerned with the implications of a sale of our most advanced fighter jet given numerous outstanding, unanswered questions about the implications of this sale for U.S. national security, our technology interests, and implications for regional stability including the legal parameters of Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge. But if the Administration has decided to proceed with this Trump-era deal, then we must enact protections to ensure the incredibly sensitive technology of these aircraft is not compromised by powers hostile to the United States, including making sure the UAE pulls-back from its burgeoning relationship with China and other U.S. competitors,” said Senator Menendez. “This legislation lays out the types of assurances and commitments the United States must have to safeguard this sale.”
Find a copy of the Secure F-35 Exports Act of 2021 here.
The legislation’s key provisions include:
- Requires that the president assess and report to Congress, before any provision of F-35 aircraft to countries that are not NATO members or Israel, Australia, Japan, South Korea or New Zealand:
- a full assessment of the risks presented by such sale, export, or transfer to the security of the United States, including to the critical military and technological military advantage such aircraft provide to the United States Armed Forces; and
- a certification that such sale, export, or transfer does not present a significant danger of compromising the critical military and technological military advantage such aircraft provide to the United States Armed Forces.
- Requires a certification by the president before the provision of F-35 aircraft to a Middle Eastern country other than Israel that:
- such sale will not compromise or undermine Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME);
- strong assurances have been made that these aircraft will not be used in activities or operations inimical to the security of Israel, or to the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States;
- sufficient technology security measures will be required to prevent espionage against these aircraft; and
- if these assurances are violated, the U.S. will have the means to counter those violations.
- Requires a certification by the president before delivery that:
- the provision of F-35 aircraft will not undermine Israel’s QME;
- the U.S. has instituted technology security measures;
- such country has not transferred any US-origin arms to terrorists or adversaries of Israel or the United States;
- such country has not provided weapons from any source directly or indirectly to armed militias fighting against partners and allies of the U.S.;
- such country has not conducted surveillance on any U.S. citizen or committing on enabling human rights violations; and
- such country has not acquired foreign technology to compromise the technology of such aircraft.
- Requires, for 10 years subsequent to delivery of F-35 aircraft, annual certifications that:
- the U.S. continues to institute technology security measures;
- the recipient country has not engaged in military, paramilitary, or intelligence operations inimical to the security of Israel or to the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States within the year prior to the certification; and
- the recipient country has not committed or enabled human rights violations.
- Requires the president to assess whether Israel is in danger of suffering a quantitative military disadvantage from the buildup of armed forces by other countries in the Middle East.