The Defense Department, emboldened by the successful
military campaign against Iraq, has launched an effort to win control over
the export of U.S. weapons.
U.S. troops were stunned by the large amount of Western weapons found in
Iraq, officials said. They said a U.S. fighter-jet was downed by a
French-origin Roland anti-aircraft system.
The Pentagon campaign has led to a clash with the State Department,
which has formal control over arms exports and nonproliferation policies.
Officials said that aides to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have
argued that a key lesson in the war in Iraq is for the Pentagon to be more
involved in arms exports and nonproliferation. They cited the large amount
of foreign aid to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs.
"You can no longer divorce the Pentagon's authority to wage war from the
prospect that U.S. troops will encounter a range of advanced enemy weapons
from Western and former East Bloc states," a Pentagon official said. "It's
simply a key lesson from the war in Iraq."
The bureaucratic struggle comes amid a Bush administration review of
U.S. arms export policy. The State Department has regarded weapons exports
as a way to reward U.S. allies and help American contractors.
Officials said Rumsfeld supports the Pentagon campaign but does not seek
to sideline the State Department from arms exports and nonproliferation.
Instead, Rumsfeld envisions formal consultations between Pentagon and State
that would determine U.S. arms exports to allies and export controls of
dual-use systems by Washington's allies. Currently, the Pentagon provides
input in such issues, but decision are issued by the secretary of state.
In March, the Pentagon moved to obtain authority over security
assistance to U.S. allies. In a first, the Defense Department requested $1.4
billion for U.S. allies in the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. At the same
time, the Pentagon was also given authority to help run a post-Saddam Iraq.
The aid used has come from Foreign Military Financing and International
Military Education and Training, programs normally administered by the State
So far, Congress has rejected the Pentagon's drive for authority in
foreign and security assistance. The House and Senate Appropriations
committees approved the Pentagon's request for funding but denied granting
the department special authority to spend the mnoey.