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May 30, 2007

Attention: Defense and Foreign Policy Aides
Re: Building Global Partnerships Act of 2007

Dear Senator,

We, the undersigned organizations, encourage you to reject the Pentagon proposed legislation entitled, the “Building Global Partnerships Act of 2007.”  This controversial legislation would permanently grant the Department of Defense the authority to spend up to $750 million annually to help foreign governments build up their military forces, police and other internal security forces to “combat terrorism and enhance stability.”  The Building Global Partnerships Act of 2007 represents a continuation of the dangerous trend to remove State Department control over U.S. military assistance programs.  Instead, the measure would grant additional authorities to the Pentagon with little congressional oversight. 

This legislative initiative originates in Section 1206 authority, which initially provided funds to the Pentagon to train and equip military and police forces in Iraq and Afghanistan without State Department involvement. It was later broadened to allow for paying the costs, with State Department concurrence, of training and equipping other countries, including Algeria, Chad, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Lebanon, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tunisia, and Yemen.

The Pentagon commentary attached to the legislative proposal states that “to ensure that commanders have adequate flexibility to meet operational needs, this section also would eliminate Foreign Assistance Act restrictions.”  The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA) gives the Department of State primacy over how and when to provide military assistance to foreign governments. Over the last 46 years, Congress has added conditions to the FAA that require the State Department to consider the recipient state’s record on human rights and democracy, before disbursing military aid. Congress deliberately placed the responsibility for providing military assistance with the State Department in order to ensure that assistance is granted in accordance with long-term U.S. foreign policy goals.  

Further, the Governments Accountability Office looked at Defense Department compliance with the requirements of 1206 and issued a critical assessment this past February.  It stated that in fiscal year 2006, only five of 14 proposals were coordinated with the relevant embassies before being reviewed in Washington.  And in another five countries, the Pentagon did not inform the embassies of its plans to provide military assistance until it had already notified Congress of the projects. 

This proposal is part of a disturbing trend toward the militarization of programs previous controlled by civilian agencies.  In December 2006, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reported that “as a result of inadequate funding for civilian programs . . . U.S. defense agencies are increasingly being granted authority and funding to fill perceived gaps.”  That report concluded that the consequences of this trend "risks(ed) weakening the Secretary of State's primacy in setting the agenda for U.S. relations with foreign countries,” and cautioned that “some foreign officials question what appears to be to them a new emphasis by the United States on military approaches to problems that are not seen as lending themselves to military solutions.”

Expanding the role of the Department of Defense is not a substitute for adequately supporting strong civilian foreign policy institutions and programs.  We encourage you to reject this proposal.  Instead, we urge you to maintain FAA restriction and explore how the Congress can help the State Department and USAID accomplish their stated mission of “helping to build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that will respond to the need of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system.” 


3D Security Initiative
Albert Schweitzer Institute
American Friends Service Committee
Amnesty International USA
Arms Trade Resource Center, World Policy Institute
Brethren Witness/Washington Office
California Council of Churches IMPACT
Center for International Policy
Citizens for Global Solutions
EarthRights International
East Timor and Indonesia Action Network
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Global Exchange
Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA
International Labor Rights Forum
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Mennonite Central Committee
Nebraskans for Peace
NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala
Open Society Policy Center
Oxfam America
Peace Action West
Presbyterian Church, USA, Washington Office
Quixote Center/Haiti Reborn
Refugees International
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
US Office on Colombia
Washington Office on Latin America
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, United States Section

For more information contact:
Scott Stedjan, Legislative Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Phone: 202-547-6000

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