WASHINGTON – The U.S. sold $ 175 billion in arms to foreign partners and allies in fiscal 2020. This corresponds to an increase of 2.8 percent compared to the previous year. This emerges from an announcement by the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday.
The sum comes at the end of the Trump administration, which made boosting arms exports an important part of their economic growth platform.
Export licenses through the Direct Commercial Sales program totaled $ 124.3 billion in FY 20, compared to $ 114.7 billion a year earlier. A series of reforms begun under the Obama administration and continued under the Trump team have brought more defense items into the commercial sales space.
The deals made under the Foreign Military Sales program, which cover the majority of the major defense items, totaled $ 50.78 billion. Of this, $ 44.79 billion was in partner country payments, $ 3.3 billion in foreign military funding, and $ 2.69 billion in cases under Defense Department Title 10 grant programs such as Train and Equipment programs have been funded.
The FMS total represents an 8 percent decrease from fiscal 19. In fiscal 17, the United States sold FMS deals worth $ 41.93 billion. That number rose a dramatic 33 percent to $ 55.6 billion in FY 18 and decreased slightly to $ 55.4 billion in FY 19.
Despite consecutive years of no growth, officials were optimistic, pointing to the three-year moving average of FMS cases handled, which rose from $ 51 billion for FY17 to FY19 to $ 54 billion for FY18 to FY20 , as a sign of overall growth.
In the past, officials have argued that the year-to-year volatility of the FMS process means that the three-year average is the best indicator of overall growth or decline, as it captures sales that implemented late in one fiscal year or early in the next were.
The total number of official sales is different from the total number of FMS cases cleared by the State Department. The latter number – 68 cases valued at $ 83.5 billion, the highest total annual number of FMS notifications since the Trump administration began – is a good indicator of future sales, but quantities and dollar numbers change frequently during of negotiations.
While the industry will cheer total sales, William Hartung of the Center for International Policy warned that total sales could be questionable.
“It’s important to note that this is a grossly inflated number when looking for statistics on sales that can actually occur on contracts and deliveries,” Hartung said. “There are many steps down the road that can distract an authorized sale, including changes in demand and potential customers’ economic capacity.
“The truth is, we don’t have reliable figures from the Pentagon or the State Department on how much arms the United States ships each year and what items have been shipped to which countries. Without this information, it is difficult to fully assess the impact of US arms exports. “