May 24 2018

The bipartisan provision requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a plan to Congress removing Turkey from participation in the F-35 program

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) announced they have secured a provision in the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a plan to Congress to remove the Government of Turkey from participation in the F-35 program.

The plan to Congress must include timelines associated with the removal of the Turkish government from participation in the F-35 program, so as to cause the least impact on the remaining international program partners. The plan must also outline the steps required to prohibit the transfer of any F-35 aircraft to the Turkish government from the United States.

The Tillis-Shaheen provision is in-part based on standalone legislation Senator James Lankford (R-OK) introduced with Tillis and Shaheen last month, and is a direct response to the Turkish government’s wrongful imprisonment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, and Turkey’s troubling intention to purchase the S-400 system from Russia. The provision explicitly states that Congress finds that the Turkish government is unlawfully and wrongfully detaining Andrew Brunson, and is denying him due process rights consistent with international norms.

“This bipartisan provision sends a clear message to President Erdogan that the United States expects Turkey to uphold its obligations as a NATO ally, including respecting the due process rights of American citizens who reside in or travel to Turkey,” said Senator Tillis. “I truly wish we could instead be working to pass an NDAA that would strengthen the relationship between Turkey and the United States. However, the Turkish government’s recent actions, including the wrongful treatment of Pastor Brunson, has made this Congressional response both necessary and appropriate.”

“There is tremendous hesitancy in transferring sensitive F35 planes and technology to a nation who has purchased a Russian air defense system designed to shoot these very planes down,” said Senator Shaheen. “This amendment is meant to give the Departments of State and Defense the guidance and congressional support they need to ensure that this does not happen at this time. Further, until we see clear progress on the case of Pastor Andrew Brunson, the acceptance of this amendment shows that there’s little appetite to deliver these planes, transfer their titles to Turkey, or celebrate the F35 exchange in any way. Senators Tillis and I continue to urge the Turkish government to put its alliance and membership in NATO first and cease its unconscionable behavior toward innocent civilians—both American and Turkish—at once.”