WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) announced that the conference report for the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes a provision authored by the senators that directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress assessing the Government of Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program.
The provision stipulates that the Department of Defense may not deliver any F-35 to Turkey until the report has been submitted to Congress. The provision requires an assessment of Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program, including an assessment of the impacts of a significant change in Turkish participation in the F-35 program. This reporting requirement contains language specifying that the Department of Defense should be prepared for all potential outcomes that would result if Turkey completes a purchase of the S-400 from Russia by conducting the assessment of a significant change in Turkish participation in the F-35 program, including a reduction or elimination of such participation.
The Tillis-Shaheen provision is in-part based on standalone legislation Senator James Lankford (R-OK) introduced with Tillis and Shaheen earlier this year, 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 Serkan Golge, and is denying them due process rights consistent with international norms.
“Despite the longstanding alliance between the U.S. and Turkey, our relationship has been strained in recent years because of the Turkish government’s wrongful imprisonment of American citizens. The NDAA sends a crystal 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,” said Senator Tillis. “President Erdogan can begin to uphold Turkey’s NATO obligations by immediately releasing Andrew Brunson and Serkan Golge.”
“Turkey’s stated ambition to purchase the Russian S-400 air defense system continues to give our government pause, particularly as it relates to the transfer of sensitive F-35 aircraft and technology,” said Senator Shaheen. “Moreover, the current state of relations and continued detention of innocent U.S. citizens and Embassy staff does not allow for our two nations to discuss defense matters freely and openly. This amendment is meant to give the Departments of State and Defense the guidance and congressional support they need to ensure that this transfer does not take place without a comprehensive assessment of risks and contingencies. Senator Tillis and I continue to urge the Turkish government to put its alliance and membership in NATO first and cease its disruptive behavior at once.”