As the sale of American weapons to foreign countries emerged as an important component of United States foreign policy in the years after the Second World War, the executive branch retained all policy making authority in this area until Congress passed the Arms Export Control Act of 1976. The legislation sought to extend the legislative branch's ability to develop and conduct foreign policy by giving the Congress the right to review and if necessary reject proposed arms sales.
The creation of a Congressional role in the development of the nation's arms sale policies was the primary objective of the Arms Export Control Act of 1976. However, in the twenty years since enactment, the Congress has not used the legislation to play a meaningful and constructive role in the development of the nation's arms sale policies. The legislation has not affected the executive branch's domination of the arms sale policy making process. After twenty years, the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 has failed to meet its primary objective of establishing a Congressional role in this area of the nation's foreign policy.