US military sales overseas continue upward pace

US military sales overseas continue upward pace

Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Coronado sails with an MH-60S Seahawk 8 during a small-scale littoral combat exercise in October. Similar ships were sold to Saudi Arabia. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chelsea D. Meiller)

WASHINGTON — U.S. arms sales and transfers increased to $192.3 billion in the fiscal year 2018 that ended Sept. 30, reflecting a successful push by the Trump administration to ratchet up sales.

“We continue to solicit input from industry, non-governmental organizations, and Congress to improve the arms transfer process, as well as feedback on the results of our efforts,” the State Department said in a statement sent to reporters on Thursday. “To date, the Administration has made great progress in developing strategies to compete against strategic and economic rivals, has revised numerous policies to increase U.S. competitiveness, has reduced costs, is on track to streamline regulations and improve processes, among other accomplishments.”

The increase in exports was a 13 percent hike compared to fiscal year 2017, the State Department said.

In July, the State Department sent out a news release that said it would soon implement a new Conventional Arms Transfer policy.

Part of that new plan includes hiring more staff to enhance arms sales, modify International Traffic in Arms Regulations to make sales less stringent, develop a wider array of means and options to finance arms procurement, and “enhance U.S. Government advocacy so we can apply the full weight and influence of the United States in support of defense exports that are in our national interest,” the State Department said in the release.

“The Administration is assessing progress on a quarterly basis, and revising the plan where needed,” the State Department said in the release Thursday night.

According to the news release, State Department-authorized government-to-government Foreign Military Sales (FMS) cases implemented by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency rose 33 percent to $55.66 billion in FY18 from $41.93 billion in FY 17.

“Major implemented cases in FY18 include Littoral Combat Ships for Saudi Arabia ($6.5B); F/A-18 aircraft for Kuwait ($5.1B); Patriot Air and Missile Defense Systems for Poland ($4.6B), Romania ($756M), and Saudi Arabia ($1.6B); AH-64 Apache helicopters for the UAE ($1.9B); F-16 aircraft for Bahrain ($2.1B); A-29 aircraft for Nigeria ($500M); and AH-64 Apache helicopter upgrades for the Netherlands ($1.07B),” the news release said.

The record for government-to-government military sales is $69.1 billion in fiscal year 2012. That total was enhanced by a $29 billion deal for 84 F-15s sold to Saudi Arabia.

Total value of privately contracted Direct Commercial Sales authorizations licensed by the State Department totaled $136.6 billion in FY18, a 6.6 percent increase from $128.1 billion in FY17, the news release said. “The totals include the value of hardware, services, and technical data,” the news release said.

“These increases in both government-to-government and commercial sales of defense equipment by U.S. companies have coincided with efforts by the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs and its interagency partners to comprehensively reform and modernize the arms transfer process,” the release said.

The uptick in sales was previewed in October by Army officials speaking at the annual Association of the United States Army exposition. The boost was touted as reflecting a duopoly of prospective sales initiated years ago that were finally closed as well as more aggressive sales pitches by the Trump administration.

“There has never been better cooperation between industry and the interagency,” Lt. Gen. Charles Hooper, director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, said then. Hooper praised the cooperation among Congress, the White House, Pentagon and State Department in uniting on boosting sales.

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