The Hidden Arsenal: Evaluating WRSA-I’s Legal Framework and Oversight Mechanisms (Marcellus Policy Analysis)

By Janet Abou-Elias, Spring 2024 Marcellus Policy Fellow

The U.S. War Reserve Stockpile Allies- Israel (WRSA-I), situated in Israel, is a reserve of the Department of Defense (DoD) prepositioning equipment accessible for DoD use or transfer to foreign nations. Although typically earmarked for wartime or emergency use, no explicit legal mandate exists for such transfers. The contents of the stockpile, reportedly spanning across numerous warehouses, lack a publicly available inventory.

The WRSA-I’s legal framework is insufficient in ensuring transparent and accountable defense material transfers. Despite being intended primarily for wartime or emergency use, the absence of a clear mandate has led to inconsistent management and transfer practices. The stockpile’s origins trace back to the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, following which the United States began pre-positioning military equipment in Israel. Over the decades, this evolved from storing single-use armaments to dual-use materials accessible by both U.S. and Israeli forces.

Management of WRSA-I has shifted from U.S. European Command (EUCOM) to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), further complicating oversight efforts. The bilateral agreements governing WRSA-I entail Israel covering costs related to storage and maintenance, yet public policy guidance on transfers remains unavailable. Notably, significant withdrawals from WRSA-I have been made for Israeli use during conflicts, and more recently, for U.S. military aid to Ukraine, although there is no public documentation of the details of the transfers in most cases.

The legal foundation for WRSA-I involves Section 514 of the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) and the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), along with various specific transfer authorities created by Congress. However, these statutes fall short in requiring comprehensive reporting to Congress for defense articles added to or transferred from WRSA-I, limiting legislative oversight and public accountability.

Recent legislative amendments, such as those under the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), have further facilitated the rapid transfer of munitions from WRSA-I without standard congressional notifications. Additionally, the 2023 Securing American Arms Act and emergency supplemental appropriations have reduced constraints on the transfer of U.S. weapons to WRSA-I, diminishing transparency and increasing the potential for unmonitored military support to Israel.

The implications of these practices extend beyond logistical concerns, as reduced constraints on weapons transfers from the stockpile run the risk of weapons dispersion and misuse. As global military spending reaches unprecedented levels, the unchecked transfer of arms, particularly through programs like WRSA-I, exacerbates regional conflicts and undermines global security.

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