The U.S. Conventional Arms Transfer Policy provides a framework under which U.S. Government agencies review and evaluate proposed arms transfers. Administrations have long issued such guidance to the Executive Branch agencies, dating back to the first CAT Policy established by the Carter Administration in 1977, and through several subsequent iterations previously promulgated by the Reagan, Clinton, Obama, and Trump Administrations.
- The Biden-Harris Administration recognizes conventional arms transfers have significant implications for U.S. national security and foreign policy interests. As such the U.S. CAT Policy articulates the priorities and rationale for adjudicating arms transfer decisions, codifying the principles the Administration have been operating under since Day-1.
- Building on the October 2022 National Security Strategy, the revised CAT Policy will help establish and maintain strategic partnerships that best reflect the values and interests of the United States. The United States, its Allies, and partners are all stronger and safer when working in concert, and arms transfers are an important mechanism to strengthen partner contributions to global security and reinforce these security relationships.
- The revised CAT Policy makes it clear that under this Administration, the United States will utilize a holistic approach to conventional arms transfers and adherence to our agreements on the use of U.S. origin defense equipment by our Allies and partners, compliance with the law of armed conflict, and respect for human rights, and we will take appropriate measures in cases where we conclude that violations have taken place.
- The newly revised CAT Policy is committed to strengthening U.S. national security by reinforcing respect for human rights, international humanitarian law, democratic governance, and rule of law, by:
- Preventing arms transfers that risk facilitating or otherwise contributing to violations of human rights or international humanitarian law;
- Strengthening ally and partner capacity to respect their obligations under international law and reduce the risk of civilian harm, including through U.S. arms transfers bundled with appropriate tools, training, advising, and institutional capacity-building efforts;
- Ensuring that arms transfers do not fuel corruption or undermine good governance, while incentivizing effective, transparent, and accountable security sector governance.
- The revised CAT Policy formalizes longstanding practice that certain Commerce- regulated items, such as firearms and certain military items, including spare parts and components are subject to the CAT Policy framework.
- The CAT Policy aligns U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives. By doing so, the United States can be both a more effective security partner, as well as build on its global leadership strengthening collective security; promote international peace and stability; reinforce respect for human rights, international humanitarian law, democratic governance, and rule of law; ensure arms transfers do not fuel corruption; and prevent proliferation of equipment and technology that is destabilizing.
- In addition to its strengthened focus on human rights and security sector governance, the newly revised CAT Policy also reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to maintaining a robust and innovative defense industrial base, through a clear and transparent process that promotes a level playing field for U.S. industry. In an increasingly competitive market, the U.S. Government will promote transfers when they are in the U.S. national interest, in line with the considerations of the CAT Policy, and consistent with defense trade advocacy procedures.
For further information, please contact the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at PM-CPA@state.gov, and follow the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs on Twitter, @StateDeptPM.