Lawmakers, White House
DC: The Bush administration has defended its sale of fighter
jets to Pakistan, while key members of Congress accused
the White House of making an end-run around Congress to
seal the deal.
Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs
John Hillen told lawmakers that the sale of up to 36 F-16
fighter jets to Pakistan would help bolster a key US ally
in the global fight against terrorism. "This sale is
a presidential priority and a key element of the administration's
South Asia strategy unveiled in March 2005, aimed at broadening
our strategic relationships with our key regional partners:
India, Afghanistan and Pakistan," Hillen said at a
hearing of the House of Representatives International Relations
However the committees leaders -- both Democratic and Republican
-- were irate over the sale.
"What we can say for the public record is that a sequence
of actions and inactions by the State Department recently
resulted in a host of serious national security and compliance
issues," said the panel's Republican chairman Henry
Hyde at the hearing, accusing the administration of "flouting
of Congress' role."
"This insolence flies in the face both of custom and
the intent of the Constitution," added his Democratic
counterpart, Tom Lantos.
To avoid being circumvented in the future, the two lawmakers
on last Thursday introduced HR 5847, a bill that would require
quarterly updates on possible upcoming arms sales and would
enforce a 20-day consultation period before a proposed sale
could go forward.
Lawmakers expressed concerns that the fighter jets' sophisticated
technology could fall into the wrong hands. "While
I support the substance of the sale, we have had long-standing
concerns over the security plan to protect the US technology
in these aircraft and missiles in sales to a country that
produced the A Q Khan nuclear proliferation network,"
But the administration insisted that the sale not only was
not a security risk, but would make America safer.
"The sale will send a very clear signal of our commitment
to a long-term relationship with Pakistan ... and it will
strengthen the hand of President (Pervez) Musharraf and
his government in supporting us in the war on terror and
in continuing to make other politically difficult, yet strategic
choices," Hillen said.
US President George W. Bush's administration notified the
Congress of the five billion dollar aircraft sale late last
Washington had blocked the sale of F-16s to Pakistan for
15 years to protest its nuclear weapons program, but gave
the green light in March 2005 to reward the South Asian
ally for its help in the war on terror. Pakistan already
has more than 30 multi-role F-16s made by US aerospace giant
Lockheed Martin Corp.