Policy Jolts in U.S. Arms Transfers: The Post Cold War Security Environment

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

This research addresses the subject of conventional arms transfers in the Post Cold War Era. ("Conventional arms" herein are defined as high cost, state-of-the-art weapons systems in aerospace, land vehicles, missiles and naval vessels.") The rapid and startling changes in the international political environment that took place in the late 1980's forced the U.S. and her Western Allies to reexamine their national defense budgets. The Bush Administration responded to the situation with new policy initiatives or "jolts" that aligned the annual U.S. Department of Defense's budget with Post Cold War realities. (A "jolt" is defined here as a sudden "shock" to a system that has the potential to alter radically one or more of its established structural components or behavioral patterns.) The word "jolt" is specifically used because while the policies reducing force strength and decreasing defense spending had been introduced on earlier occasions since the end of World War II, these particular jolts were driven by different circumstances than previous drawdowns. The Cold War that had dominated and shaped international affairs was over; the Post Cold War era promised to be a radical departure from the 50-year long status quo.

Some phases of the policy jolts were directly related to U.S. Department of Defense operations, such as base closings and reductions in force, while others affected the U.S. defense industrial base through the weapons acquisition process. Domestic acquisition programs have important linkages to transferable weapons systems. Such linkages were so deeply embedded that despite severe reductions in weapons acquisition programs, most prime defense contractors did not conceptually redefine or reconstitute themselves although they went through a long period of mergers and acquisitions. This research explores how U.S. governmental stakeholders interpreted the utility of conventional arms transfers in managing the "aftershocks" of the policy jolts experienced by defense contractors. Their behaviors indicate that U.S. policy-making institutions, for the most part, tried to direct favorable outcomes for U.S. sales in the world market. Ultimately, the policy initiatives undertaken to assure favorable outcomes for defense corporations and their unforeseen consequences could lead to new policies or issue transformation.

Transfers, Conventional Arms Exports