US approved $175B in weapons sales to other countries in 2020

The U.S. government approved more than $175 billion in weapons sales to other countries in fiscal 2020, up $5 billion from the previous year, the Pentagon announced Friday.

The spending, a 2.8 percent increase from 2019, marks the final year of weapons sales under the Trump administration, which frequently pushed major arms deals despite opposition from Congress.

The latest figure includes roughly $50.8 billion in foreign military sales, which makes up the majority of the country’s large arms deals to allies and partners, and $124.3 billion in direct commercial sales.

Defense Security Cooperation Agency Director Heidi Grant said that while foreign military sales took an 8 percent dip from fiscal 2019 to fiscal 2020, the three-year rolling average for such sales is actually on the rise — up to $54 billion in fiscal 2018 to fiscal 2020 compared to $51 billion between fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2019.

Due to the unpredictability of these types of sales year-to-year, Grant argued that the three-year average is the best gauge of whether they are on the rise or fall.

“This is a more accurate measure than the annual total as it reduces the impact of sales that were implemented late in one fiscal year or early in the next,” she told reporters at the Pentagon.

Direct commercial sales, meanwhile, showed a nearly $10 billion jump from the previous year, a rise that could be attributed to several reforms in the past five years that moved more military armaments and equipment into the commercial sales category.

Among those reforms is the Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, updated in April 2018, which makes it easier to sell weapons to other countries, as well as the Trump administration’s July reinterpretation of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

The United States in 1987 helped form the MTCR, which prevents its 35 members from selling armed drones to other nations, though it is not legally binding and is treated as an understanding among its member nations.

The State Department in November informed Congress that it plans to sell armed drones to the United Arab Emirates as well as Taiwan under the new interpretation.

However, such deals could be reversed by the incoming Biden administration.


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