Thank you, Kelley and Andrea, for the introduction. Our new Assistant Secretary, Jessica Lewis, intended to be here today, but this morning got called away. So let me say “thank you” the Defense Trade Advisory Group for bearing with us. The Bureau of Political-Military Affairs has long valued DTAG’s work to provide a channel for regular consultation and coordination with U.S. private sector defense exporters and defense trade specialists, which is why Jessica was looking forward to speaking with you. She will participate in a future meeting.
I am Tim Betts, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. As you know, the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, or PM, drives global security policy, integrates diplomacy and defense, and builds strong security cooperation partnerships. PM is the Department’s primary link to the Department of Defense, which helps to ensure our military objectives are properly nested under our broader foreign policy goals and foster strategic relationships with our allies and partners.
Annually, PM oversees the sale and transfer of $170 billion in sensitive technology, directs nearly $7 billion in security assistance programs, and leads U.S. government coordination with DoD on defense plans and an additional $9 billion in Title 10 security assistance. This includes more than $700 million in programming for conventional weapons destruction, peacekeeping capacity building, and strengthening our partners’ security sector governance.
PM operationalizes a number of current White House policy priorities to advance strategic sales and implement the President’s Conventional Arms Transfer, or CAT Policy, support strong security sector governance, improve interoperability and burden-sharing with U.S. partners, and build partner capacity. Our partnership with industry plays a key role in meeting our goals and helps to ensure the United States can continue to offer cutting-edge, cost-effective, and sustainable capabilities that support our partners’ ability to defend themselves.
Assistant Secretary Lewis was sworn in September 30 and has set out four commitments for the Bureau:
- First, as President Biden promised, ensuring that US arms sales are both in line with American values and in our foreign policy interest, including our support of human rights, which, of great importance, includes mitigating civilian harm.
- Second, Congress plays a key role in American foreign policy. Assistant Secretary Lewis comes to us from the Hill and is committed to reinvigorating PM’s relationship with Congress.
- Third, she is focused on strengthening the workforce at the Bureau, and specifically to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion. As the Secretary rightly notes, diversity makes us a stronger and more effective organization.
- And finally, as Assistant Secretary, she is committed to doing what we can diplomatically to promote a level playing field for the American defense industry worldwide and ensuring its enduring vitality in an age of strategic competition.
The global security challenges we face today are great, but so too are the opportunities. PM plays a key role of realizing the objectives set out by the President and the Secretary to lead with diplomacy, renew and revitalize America’s alliance, and deliver for the American people.
These past several months have seen an extraordinary level of activity that has direct military and security implications worldwide. The end of the 20-year U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and the departure of U.S. diplomatic staff, American citizens living there, and vulnerable Afghan partners, have called for unprecedented responses by both the Department of State and the Department of Defense.
At the same time, the PRC’s persistent threat to allies and partners in the South China Sea, as well as Iranian malign activities in the Middle East serve as reminders that we must always maintain constant vigilance on significant threats where U.S. security assistance plays a key role to support our allies and partners.
Decisions about the United States’ security assistance and arms transfers are a function of our foreign policy with potential long-term implications for regional security and internal dynamics within recipient countries.
For this reason, the United States takes into account political, military, economic, arms control, and human rights considerations in determining whether to approve the provision of military equipment and services to any country. Each proposed transfer we review is carefully assessed and is approved if found to further U.S. foreign policy and national security interests. In addition, (as many of you know) major defense transfers and sales may be subject to Congressional notification. We understand that industry needs transparency and clarity, which is why we’re committed to a close and clear engagement with you on how we can better deliver U.S. defense equipment and services to our partners and allies.
Our Priority: Renewing American Leadership
The top foreign policy priority of the Biden Administration continues to be renewing American leadership. Today, we are meeting at a time when global dynamics have shifted. New crises demand our attention. And in this moment of accelerating global challenges one thing is certain: we will only succeed in advancing American interests and upholding our universal values by working in common cause with our closest allies and partners and by renewing our own enduring sources of national strength. In order to succeed, we also need our industry partners, who play a vital role in building and fostering important security partnerships around the world. We appreciate the role that all of you play in this sector, and we highly value the relationship we have developed and maintained over the years.
We can only achieve these goals with one core strategic proposition: The United States must renew its enduring advantages so that we can meet today’s challenges from a position of strength. We will reclaim our place in international institutions; lift up our values at home and speak out to defend them around the world; modernize our military capabilities, while leading first with diplomacy; and revitalize America’s unmatched network of alliances and partnerships.
We will compete with Beijing and defend the international rules-based order against those who seek to undermine it; renew democratic values at home and abroad; and push back against malign activity by our adversaries.
We also need to closely consider the threats facing our partners in dynamic regions like the Middle East. As the United States has completed our drawdown of forces in Afghanistan and continues our drawdown in Iraq, we will need partners in the Middle East to step up to ensure stability in the region. Together, we must ensure the United States can continue to offer cutting-edge, cost-effective, and sustainable capabilities that support our partners’ ability to defend themselves in ways that do not run afoul on human rights and international law.
But we cannot do this work alone. For this reason, we will reinvigorate and modernize our alliances and partnerships around the world. For decades, our allies have stood by our side against common threats and adversaries and worked hand-in-hand to advance our shared interests and values. They are a tremendous source of strength and a unique American advantage, helping to shoulder the responsibilities required to keep our nation safe and our people prosperous. We also look to you, our partners in the DTAG, for fresh thinking. Your ideas offer innovative solutions on how we can build strategic partnerships that best reflect the values, interests, and capabilities that the United States brings to the table.
By equipping and empowering our partners to address shared security concerns, we can help share the burden of addressing today’s crises, while promoting resilience, innovation, and shared prosperity for the future. In fact, our partners are more than eager to work with us because of the performance and quality of U.S. manufactured defense equipment and defense-related services – they understand the United States offers the best in the world.
Our decisions about security assistance and arms transfers are functions that advance foreign policy, which is why these statutory authorities have been placed with the Department of State. In applying the security cooperation toolkit, the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs seeks to build the capacity of allies and partners to contribute to regional stability and security , which in turn contributes to American security.
In fact, deepening and expanding relationships through security cooperation with long-standing and emerging partners is key to reinforcing American leadership and rallying allies and partners to meet shared security challenges.
The Road Ahead on CAT Policy:
Let me say a word about the Biden Administration’s work to update the Conventional Arms Transfer, or CAT Policy to ensure it reflects the President’s goals of putting diplomacy first, respecting human rights and international humanitarian law, revitalizing and reimaging alliances, and delivering for the American people.
We are developing the new Conventional Arms Transfer Policy with these commitments in mind: U.S. security cooperation partnerships need to reflect and be respectful of the values, interests, and capabilities the United States brings to that partnership. This revised and updated CAT policy is being developed through an intensive interagency process, as well as wide-ranging stakeholder consultations with Congress, industry, think tanks, and the NGO and advocacy community.
We seek to elevate human rights, stress the principles of restraint and responsible use, and consider our partners’ security sector governance within our holistic approach to evaluating proposed arms transfers.
Among some of the considerations we are actively assessing in revising the CAT Policy are ways we can further U.S. efforts to:
- Refrain from arms transfers that could contribute to human rights violations or abuses or violations of international humanitarian law;
- Strengthen ally and partner efforts to develop effective security sector governance structures as well as to promote efforts to fulfill obligations under international law and mitigate civilian harm; and
- Promote peaceful and responsible conflict resolution, arms control, and nonproliferation.
This Administration will not approve arms transfers where we believe such transfers are not in our national interest because of the risk of diversion, civilian harm, misuse, or contrary to any of the other criteria I have mentioned. As proof of this, you need look no further than the Administration’s decision to recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia, indefinitely suspending two large precision guided munitions cases previously approved to Saudi Arabia and energizing diplomacy as part of a push for a political settlement of the conflict in Yemen.
We believe the revised CAT Policy will represent a holistic approach to assessing proposed security cooperation activities in a holistic manner that reflects our interests and values. The United States will engage diplomatically to address impediments to bilateral defense trade relations with potential recipient countries that may preclude prudent arms transfers from proceeding, limit U.S. Government and U.S. defense contractors’ market access, or prevent U.S. entities from competing on a level playing field. The new CAT Policy will strengthen the U.S. manufacturing and defense industrial base and helps ensure resiliency in global supply chains. It will also help promote research and innovation into emerging defense technologies, ensuring that the United States and its allies and partners can maintain technological advantages over current and potential adversaries.
Finally, it is the goal of this Administration to cooperate with allies and partners where our priorities align but to not shy away from defending U.S. interests and American values. The Bureau is grateful to the DTAG and industry for all that you have done and continue to do for our country, which we see as an integral part of our engagement with the world.
While the global security challenges we face today are great, no nation is better equipped to navigate these uncertain times than America. Doing so requires us to embrace and reclaim our enduring advantages, and to approach the world from a position of confidence and strength. If we do this while working with our democratic partners, we will meet every challenge and outpace every challenger.
Thank you all for your time. I would now like to turn the presentation back over to Andrea Dynes.