03.12.09

FY 2009 Omnibus Bill Includes Leahy-Feinstein Provision To Prohibit Sale Or Transfer Of Most U.S. Cluster Munitions

Leahy Wants Export Ban To Prompt Pentagon Review Of U.S. Policy

(THURSDAY, March 12) -- U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) Thursday announced that the Fiscal Year 2009 omnibus appropriations bill includes a provision they authored to prohibit the sale or transfer of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.  The omnibus bill was signed into law by President Obama on Wednesday.

The provision was included as part of the State Department and Foreign Operations section of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill.  Leahy chairs the Appropriations subcommittee on the State Department and Foreign Operations, which handled the Senate’s work in writing that section of the bill.

“This is a key step for the United States and it reinforces the efforts of other countries to stop the carnage caused by cluster munitions,” said Senator Leahy.  “Like Congress’s initiative to ban the export of anti-personnel landmines, this can be a catalyst to prompt a review by the Pentagon of U.S. policy, with a view to rapidly ending the use of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to innocent civilians.”  Leahy also has long been the leading U.S. officeholder pressing for an end to the use of anti-personnel landmines.  He followed a similar course in his crusade against landmines, enacting the world’s first ban on the export of anti-personnel landmines in 1992, which began a series of actions that eventually led to an international treaty to ban anti-personnel landmines.

Feinstein said, “This is an important legislative victory.  It sends a signal to the rest of the world that the U.S. government will not sell or transfer dangerous cluster bombs to our allies – unless we can be assured that the munitions will pose no direct threat to civilian communities.  I applaud Senator Leahy for his leadership in getting this sensible provision enacted – and I hope that we will be able to quickly follow suit with another bill we have sponsored to permanently restrict the use of these weapons by U.S. forces, especially in areas where civilians are known to live and work.”  

Specifically, the Leahy-Feinstein measure requires that no U.S. military funds will be used for the sale or transfer or cluster bombs, unless:

  • the cluster bombs have a failure rate of 1 percent or less; and

  • the sale or transfer agreement specifies that the cluster bombs will be used only against clearly defined military targets and not where civilians are known to be present.

Currently, the arsenal of the U.S. military contains 5.5 million cluster bombs, or 728 million bomblets – many of which have a failure rate of 1 percent or higher. 

Previously, a one-year ban on the sale and transfer ban of these dangerous weapons was folded by Leahy into the Fiscal Year 2008 omnibus appropriations bill. 

Leahy and Feinstein also recently introduced a bill to set similar standards for the use of cluster munitions by U.S. military forces.  

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