U.S. share of world arms exports continues to increase

U.S. share of world arms exports continues to increase

In a 2014 file photo Estonian military signs new weapons deal with the U.S. // Photo by Staff Sgt. Raymond Boyington U.S. Army Europe

WASHINGTON — The U.S. share of world arms exports increased to 83 percent in 2015, due to an increased reliance on America as an arms source for rich, democratic-styled governments.

A new State Department report, analyzing arms sales from 2005 to 2015, shows that U.S. arms exports averaged about $129 billion a year. Arms imports were harder to quality, the report said; nevertheless, over that period the arms trade surplus appears to have offset about 20 percent of the total U.S. trade deficit, the report shows.

From 2005 to 2015, the global annual value of international arms transfer deliveries appears to have averaged about $161 billion. In constant 2015 U.S. dollar terms, sales rose by about 66 percent,from about $115 billion to about $192 billion, despite declining after 2012.

The report said about 10 percent of the world arms trade, by value as opposed to volume, appears to have been supplied by the United States. That was matched with about 10 percent by the European Union, about 5 percent by Russia, and less than 2 percent by China. The U.S. share of the world arms market appears to have grown, while the E.U. share appears to have diminished, with no clear trend in the Russian and Chinese shares, the report said.

During the 11-year study period, the share of GDP to which military expenditure was equivalent – an indicator sometimes called “the military burden” — appears to have averaged between 2.0 percent and 2.5 percent, peaking at 2.8 percent in 2009, the report said. That was a far lower share of measured global economic output than in 1989, at the end of the Cold War, when it appears to have been about 4.7 percent.

Countries in the richest study samples of world population appear to have accounted for about 97 percent of world arms exports and about 65 percent of world arms imports. Countries in the most democratic study samples of world population appear to have accounted for 92 percent of world arms exports and about 54 percent of world arms imports, according to the study.

The number of people serving in the world’s armed forces appears to fallen about 2 percent in absolute terms, from about 21.1 million in 2005 to about 20.6 million in 2015, peaking at about 21.3 million in 2008. Only South Asia and South America have upward trends, the report said.

Last November, it was reported the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which implements foreign arms sales, announced sales of $41.93 billion for fiscal 2017, a 25 percent rise from a year earlier. That agency is part of the Defense Department.

A new one-year record for clearing weapon sales was set in 2017, with $75.9 billion cleared by the State Department and announced by the DSCA in fiscal 2017, which ended September 30. The previous record was $68.6 billion, set in fiscal 2012 following the approval of a series of massive weapons packages for Saudi Arabia. In comparison, in fiscal 2016, DSCA cleared $33.6 billion in potential weapon sales.

A separate 2017 State Department background fact sheet notes that arms sales and defense trade are “key tools of foreign policy with potential long-term implications for regional security.” It also said that “properly regulated defense transfers support the U.S. defense industrial base and reduce the costs of procurement for our own military.”

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