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Removing Barriers to the U.S. - U.K. Alliance

March 08, 2024

This week is the 78th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech in Missouri and his call for a “special relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom. This anniversary presents an excellent opportunity to strengthen our arms agreement with our staunch ally. Under the current rules of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), we cannot effectively share military technology with the United Kingdom. This has to change.

Last month, Iranian-backed militias attacked targets in the Red Sea, including vessels from the United States and the United Kingdom. And while no British soldiers were killed, our friends across the Atlantic need no excuse to stand alongside the United States and our mutual ally, Israel. In response, the U.S. and the U.K. launched several attacks on the Houthis in Yemen. Thus far, thirty-six Houthi targets have been successfully hit across thirteen locations.

Yet, despite working together with the U.K., bureaucratic hurdles prevent us from sharing crucial military technologies that would give us a mutual edge over our adversaries. With global threats and geopolitical challenges only worsening, this is a grave problem.

For example, a British company developed a hypersonic missile system that would significantly advance U.S. military capabilities. However, due to regulations under ITAR, the company cannot sell this technology to the United States without our government taking exclusive ownership. Understandably, the company decided not to sell its system, and a huge opportunity was missed. Red tape and burdensome regulations in the ITAR compliance system are holding us back from this essential cooperation.

The ability to seamlessly share our military technology with the United Kingdom is a no-brainer. Current ITAR statutes are an unneeded hindrance to this alliance. We must implement a fast and efficient Foreign Military Sales process without hesitation. 

The U.S. and the U.K. have stood shoulder-to-shoulder in combat for over a century. We drove the Central Powers back from the trenches of the Western Front at the Somme and across the Marne. We stormed the beaches of Normandy in the largest amphibious assault in history; an operation that we will commemorate the 80th anniversary of this year and a timely reminder of what we can achieve when freedom-loving partners work together. 

Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech called for the “fraternal association of the English-speaking peoples” and the “continuance of the intimate relationship between our military advisers” against the mounting threat of the Soviet Union. Our nations forged an alliance from the fires of two world wars and stood united during the century’s cold one.

When America was attacked on September 11th, the United Kingdom was the first to stand by our side. During my deployment in 2003 to Iraq, I treated the wounds of several soldiers from the Special Air Service, one of the British Army’s premier special forces units. The bond our nations share is unlike any other. We must have the ability to share military technology with fewer barriers.

I would challenge the Biden State Department to ask itself if we could have achieved victory in the wars of the last century if our allies, specifically the United Kingdom, had to comply with today’s ITAR restrictions and what this means for the next conflict.

That’s why I introduced the Special Relationship Military Improvement Act on the 79th anniversary of D-Day. This legislation amends the Arms Export Control Act to give the U.K. an improved status on par with Canada's. This will increase bilateral cooperation between the United States and our closest ally—the United Kingdom.

With a rising China, a Russian military inching closer to NATO’s borders, the threat of Iran-backed militia groups resurfacing in the Middle East, and transnational criminal organizations taking over whole nations in South and Central America, strengthening our alliance is more important than ever. We cannot allow our adversaries to outpace us in military development. ITAR regulations aren’t moving at the pace of the threat or technology and require reform.

In 1946, Churchill called for a “special relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom. And today, the special relationship we share cannot be overstated. I hope that by ensuring shared access to critical military technologies, we will continue to stand side-by-side for generations to come.

Mark Green is a physician and combat veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq, where he served three tours. He interviewed Saddam Hussein for six hours on the night of his capture. He is chair of the House Homeland Security Committee and serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

This article was originally published by RealClearDefense and made available via RealClearWire.
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