263. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter1


  • Congressional Notification of Pending Conventional Arms Transfer Cases

In my memorandum of February 8,2 I reported that we had several billion dollars worth of pending Foreign Military Sales cases which we inherited from the previous Administration, as well as requests pending for Munitions Control export licenses to fulfill signed commercial contracts. Both require notification to Congress pursuant to Section 36 of the Arms Export Control Act of 1976. Zbig has suggested to you3 that we not send any of these cases to Congress prior to your decisions on the PRM–12 response on arms transfer policy. I do not agree that we should delay on all of these cases, and am recommending an alternative method of proceeding.


We transfer defense articles and services through several channels. The largest volume is through government-to-government agreements under Foreign Military Sales (FMS) procedures. Straight commercial transactions must be licensed by the State Department’s Office of Munitions Control at the time the goods or services are ready for export. The process through which major FMS and commercial cases are reported to Congress is described at Attachment 2.4

We are now holding for Congressional notification 49 FMS and commercial cases totalling approximately $5 billion in defense goods and services. Ideally, the decision to send these cases to Congress should await the completion of our arms transfer policy review under PRM/NSC–12, as suggested by Zbig Brzezinski in his memorandum to you of February 23 but deferral of all cases raises some serious problems.

—Almost all of these cases are non-controversial and raise no serious policy problems for us.

—Our contacts with Congressmen strongly indicate that Congress is ready to accept most of the cases without debate. The main problem

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for many legislators is the Persian Gulf. Here, we will hold some cases for your review and for completion of the policy review.

—It will be almost six weeks before you make decisions on a new overall policy. By that time the backlog of cases could total $7 billion. If we wait to send these cases to Congress until your overall policy is set, the very magnitude of the submissions is likely to overshadow the new approach you will be enunciating.

—Such a moratorium would, in general, create expectations about our future arms policy that cannot be met. We are not intending to forsake arms transfers as a part of our foreign policy. Whatever controls you do institute will not produce overnight results and will require cooperative efforts if they are to be effectively implemented. A moratorium of even a month will cause panic among those it affects and will tend to galvanize opposition before policy decisions have been made.

—Bilateral political problems will result. Seven of these cases involve NATO countries. It is inconsistent for us to press NATO countries to do more on defense, while at the same time denying them items they have ordered. Both the Dutch and the British have made this point to us. With respect to other friendly countries, 33 of the 49 cases involve logistics support (without which equipment will be inoperable), annual ammunition procurement, and ancillary equipment for or small additions to stocks of weapons we have already agreed to provide.

—Delay will mean price increases and production problems. The majority of current cases (23 of the 36 FMS cases) are not new and many have been pending since last November. Specific practical problems have already developed, or will soon develop, including:

Delivery delays and price increases (for Israel and Greece)

Logistic problems (for Iran, Taiwan, and Korea)

Disruption of signed commercial contracts (10 of the 13 pending export license cases)

Possible breaks in production lines.

Pending Cases

The growing list of pending cases (see Attachment 1)5 fall into several categories described below. I am recommending that you submit to Congress approximately $3.7 billion of the $5.0 billion total.

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Cases Value (Mil)
Category I: Construction and follow-on support for systems already in country 12 $1,185
Category II: Follow-on Ammunition supplies 4 140
Category III: Systems to Supplement existing in country inventories or to complement weapons received or on order 17 771
Category IV: Major new Equipment transfer and force expansion
A. Approval Recommended 10 1,568
B. Deferral Recommended 6 1,368
TOTALS 49 $5,032

Of the cases in Categories I–III, there is only one which raises policy questions: ammunition for Ethiopia. The Ethiopian case relates to our policy in this part of Africa. It should be deferred until we have completed our African policy review, which is now underway. The consequence of deferral is likely to be that the Ethiopians will interpret deferral as denial. The ammunition was requested sometime ago and additional delay in a decision will further strain our bilateral relations. Ethiopia may well turn to other suppliers. Nevertheless, deferral is warranted.6

There are several cases in Category IV that I would recommend for deferral:

Jordan—9 AH–1 Cobra Helicopters

($19 million)

The sale of helicopter gunships to Jordan was approved in principle some time ago, but was not completed because of Jordan’s financial problems. Notification of this case to Congress is likely to attract Israel’s attention. Because further delay on this case does not pose foreseeable consequences, it should be deferred until the policy review has been completed.7

Iran—7 E–3 Aircraft (AWACs)

($1.2 billion)

Iran has received two proposals for an early warning and control system, of which the AWACs (airborne warning and control system) is one. Iran has commissioned a comparative study to determine which of these systems will be chosen. Under these circumstances, further delay will not cause inconvenience. The size and sophistication of this system, on the other hand, would undoubtedly draw Congressional criticism, particularly in view of the general concern about US sales to the Persian Gulf.8

Pakistan—155mm Self-Propelled Howitzers

($35 million)

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Pakistan is very anxious to receive this equipment, but we have been withholding approval pending satisfactory agreement on the nuclear reprocessing issue.9 We should therefore continue to defer action on this case.10

Peru—140 Armored Personnel Carriers

($16 million)

The buildup in Peruvian military forces has created great uneasiness in the region. For the US to contribute to this buildup at this time would only add to this uneasiness. This is clearly a case that should be deferred for reassessment in light of new policy.11

Sudan—6 C–130 Transport Aircraft

($74 million)

The previous administration committed the USG to supply these transport aircraft to Sudan, as a significant step to improve relations with this strategically-placed country. We have already supplied C–130’s to other countries in the area (Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia). This would be the first US military sale to the Sudan in a long time. Deferral of this case would interrupt the trend of improvement in our relations with the Sudanese and strengthen the hand of those in the Sudanese Government who question the value of reliance on the US, which President Nimeiri has espoused. Deferral is nevertheless warranted because of the broader implications of establishing a new military supply relationship without first establishing a policy for the area. Sudan has already requested the purchase of F–5E aircraft and other major items.12

Iran—73 ALQ–119 ECM Pods

($24 million)

The proposed sale of this electronic countermeasures system (ECM) raises a technology question and should await the outcome of the arms transfer review. Although it is not our most advanced ECM system, it will add to the electronic countermeasures capability of the Iranian Air Force. We have been told by Westinghouse that the consequence of delaying this case would be plant layoffs, beginning in January 1977. Nevertheless deferral is warranted.13

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The rest of the cases in Category IV either involve NATO countries or raise significant problems if they are deferred. In addition to the British and Dutch cases, we have:

Saudi Arabia—Improved HAWK Program

($1.1 billion)

This case is a commercial contract for the expansion of the Saudi I–HAWK air defense system and represents the largest segment of a package. Most of this package consists of commercial contracts, licensed by State Department’s Munitions Control, and requiring Congressional notification because of dollar value. There is a small portion of the package that is an FMS case. Because of its size ($8 million), Congressional notification is not required. However, we intend to report this portion to Congress, as supplementary information to the Munitions Control notification. The contract for this deal was signed last June and the equipment is now ready to ship.14 It will attract Congressional criticism. The case has already been discussed informally with some Congressmen and staff. Although they understand that it was initiated during the last administration and that our ability to make adjustments is limited, they look to the administration to review the matter. Delay will subject the contractor to late delivery penalties.

Iran—TOW Missiles Launcher Kits

($40 million)

The previous Administration approved a proposal to permit Iran to assemble TOW anti-tank missile launchers. A $40 million contract was signed by the US company in January 1976 and a license was issued to ship $9 million in equipment the first year. The current export license request involves the second shipment of the contract and is valued at approximately $12 million. The purpose of this system is to improve Iran’s defense capability against the large force of Soviet-supplied tanks concentrated in Iraq. Deferral would involved disruption of an on-going assembly line.15

Singapore—Armored Personnel Carriers

($40 million)

The previous Administration approved the sale to Singapore of 246 armored personnel carriers (APC) and related vehicles. The contract was signed in March 1976 and deliveries are scheduled to begin in April. These vehicles will be used to modernize Singapore’s Army by replacing the existing fleet of Cadillac Gage Commando vehicles. We previously provided Singapore with 220 [Page 648] APC’s and related vehicles. Deferral would be very disruptive because shipment is about to begin.

Israel—126 M–60 tanks

($85 million)

94 155 mm Self-Propelled Howitzers

($52 million)

These are two of the Israeli requests approved by President Ford in October 1976. The tanks will be used to create a new mechanized brigade. The howitzers will be used to expand divisional artillery support.16 Approval of these cases is important as an indication of US support for Israeli security, particularly after the negative decision on the concussion bombs (CBU–72).17 Your decision to approve these items was announced by the White House Press Spokesman on February 18.

Jordan—16 8″ Self-Propelled Howitzers

($12 million)

These are part of a multi-year force modernization program for the mechanization of brigade artillery. The US has already furnished Jordan 32 of these howitzers and 103 self-propelled 155 mm howitzers.

Iran—Airborne Segment of IBEX Intelligence
Collection System

($30 million)

The IBEX system is a multi-million dollar program to provide Iran with a sophisticated intelligence collection capability. The original Rockwell contract was signed in March 1975. The current license involves only the airborne segment of the program.

Greece—TOW Anti-Tank Missiles

($15 million)

CH–47 Cargo Helicopters

($60 million)

These cases represent the sale of items not now in the Greek inventory. The purpose of providing the TOWs and helicopters is to improve Greece’s capabilities to meet its NATO obligations.18

Congressional Consultation

When we receive your decision, I intend that we provide the responsible Congressional committees with brief statements of justifica[Page 649]tion for all cases which are submitted. We are already talking with interested members and staffers about our arms transfer dilemmas. They appreciate that the backlog results from commitments inherited from the previous administration.

We expect the greatest number of questions about sales to the Persian Gulf. Senator Humphrey, however, believes that the problem will be manageable in view of the intent of the new administration to change policy and provided we do not propose at this time the sale of lethal, offensive weapons. None of the pending cases for Persian Gulf countries fall into this latter category. Humphrey added, however, that we should proceed on sales of defensive systems to this region only after extensive congressional consultations.


That you authorize me to initiate Congressional notifications on the commercial export licenses and FMS cases now pending, except those I have recommended for deferral.19

Future Procedures:

In your January 23 interview with AP and UPI, you said that you have asked that all approvals of arms sales be submitted to you directly before recommendations go to Congress. The attachment to this memorandum illustrates the range of goods and services on order, and demonstrates how relatively few are major controversial orders for sophisticated lethal weapons.

As you pointed out in the same interview, I will be much more hesitant in the future to recommend new arms sales agreements. Many sizeable FMS and commercial cases, however, involve noncontroversial items ($18 million radar for Tunisia) or sales to our NATO allies (e.g. $119 million sale of Sidewinder air-to-air missiles to the UK). Such routine cases do not seem to require your personal attention. If you agree, I will submit recommendations to you only on those cases which I believe may be politically sensitive or controversial. We will continue to consult the National Security Council Staff on all FMS and commercial cases requiring Congressional notification and work out procedures to insure that Dr. Brzezinski is appropriately informed prior to any notification to the Congress.


That I submit to you for your personal review only those FMS sales and commercial export licenses of major weapons systems requiring [Page 650] Congressional notification which I believe are likely to be politically sensitive or controversial.20

Alternatively, that I submit to you my recommendations on all FMS and commercial arms sales cases requiring Congressional notification, pending completion of PRM–12.21


1. List of Pending Cases22

2. Congressional Notification Process

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Global Issues, Mathews Subject File, Box 4, Arms Transfers: Policy (General): 2–5/77. Confidential.
  2. See Document 260.
  3. See Document 262.
  4. Attached but not printed.
  5. Attached but not printed.
  6. In the right-hand margin next to this paragraph, Carter wrote “defer OK.”
  7. In the right-hand margin next to this paragraph, Carter wrote “defer OK.”
  8. In the right-hand margin next to this paragraph, Carter wrote “defer OK.”
  9. For more on the issue of nuclear processing and Pakistan, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XIX, South Asia.
  10. In the right-hand margin next to this paragraph, Carter wrote “defer OK.”
  11. In the right-hand margin next to this paragraph, Carter wrote “defer OK.”
  12. In the right-hand margin next to this paragraph, Carter wrote “Might be OK to deliver.”
  13. In the right-hand margin next to this paragraph, Carter wrote “defer OK.”
  14. In the right-hand margin next to this paragraph, Carter wrote “?”
  15. In the last sentence of this paragraph, Carter lined through the “d” in “involved.” His written comment in the right-hand margin is illegible.
  16. In the right-hand margin next to the second and third sentences in this paragraph, Carter wrote “OK.”
  17. On February 17, White House Press Secretary Jody Powell announced that Carter had reversed Ford’s October 8, 1976 decision approving the sale of concussion bombs to Israel and banned their sale to other nations. Carter’s “decision to cancel the sale was ‘related to a general desire to limit and reduce the sales of sophisticated and highly destructive weapons worldwide,’ Powell said.” (“Concussion Bomb Sale Off; Panel on Appeals Judges Set,” Washington Post, February 18, 1977, p. A2)
  18. Carter’s written comment in the right-hand margin next to this paragraph is illegible.
  19. Carter did not indicate his preference with respect to this recommendation.
  20. Carter did not indicate his preference with respect to this recommendation.
  21. Carter checked the “Approve” option and underneath wrote “J.C.”
  22. Attached but not printed.