The Pentagon's practice of giving away millions of dollars in equipment to friendly countries has hit a snag in the House, where Republicans are trying to halt the proposed transfer of seven surplus ships.
The guided-missile frigates are worth a combined $420 million, making the deal one of the biggest giveaways of U.S. equipment.For all of 1994, according to the Defense Department, foreign nations were handed "excess defense articles," ranging from boots to airplanes, worth a combined $189.6 million.
The House International Relations Committee, led by Republican freshmen "budget hawks," voted recently to force the Navy to sell or lease the seven vessels instead of providing them free.
"It's a continuation of this attitude that the United States is the sugar daddy to the world," said Rep. Sam Brownback, R-Kan. "It's fine when you've got it to spend, but we're broke."
The freebies don't just come from the Navy. Defense Department documents detailing 1994 giveaways included machine guns to Australia, X-ray equipment to Brazil, library furniture to El Salvador, M-60 tanks to Egypt, a 5-ton wrecker to Israel, thousands of boots and coats to Latvia and a spotter airplane to Mali.
Proponents of the equipment giveaways say they build good will in strategic places and enable other nations to take part in military exercises and coalitions with the United States.
Even more important to many members of Congress, repair or refitting work on ships and other large items usually takes place in the United States. That means jobs back home, and income for U.S. companies when spare parts or ammunition are sold.
House documents show the Navy is proposing to give away three frigates to Turkey, two to Egypt and one each to the Persian Gulf states of Oman and Bahrain. An eighth ship is to be leased to the United Arab Emirates for $15.5 million over five years.