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former IAEA Director-General

Proposed Major U.S. Arms Export Agreements, January 2017—December 2017
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The value of proposed U.S. major conventional arms sales agreements through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program totaled just more than $63 billion in 2017—nearly identical to the amount in 2016. In May, new U.S. president Donald Trump touted potential major arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which accounted for the largest portion of the 2017 FMS notifications and also raised the most controversy. Traditional “northern” allies Canada, Poland, and Romania were the only other countries requesting $5 billion or more in sales. In total, notifications were made involving 28 different countries plus NATO in 2017.

The United States conducts government-to-government arms transfers through the Defense Department’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. Not all notified sales result in final transactions. Under the 1976 Arms Export Control Act, Congress must be notified of proposed sales of “major defense equipment”—as defined on the U.S. Munitions List—that equals or exceeds $14 million; defense articles and services that are not defined as “major defense equipment” that total $50 million or more; and construction or design services amounting to or surpassing $200 million.[1] However, if the proposed sale involves NATO members, Australia, Israel, Japan, South Korea, or New Zealand, the notification thresholds are $25 million for major defense equipment, $100 million for other defense articles and services, and $300 million for construction or design services.[2] Once notified, Congress has 30 calendar days (15 in the case of NATO members, Australia, Israel, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand) to block a sale by passing a joint resolution of disapproval, although it has never stopped a sale once formally notified.

On May 20, during his first overseas visit as president, Trump announced $110 billion in prospective arms sales to Saudi Arabia, leaving many specific details to be worked out later. In October, the single largest portion was notified to Congress, the potential sale of 7 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) radars and related missiles and other equipment valued at $15 billion. This followed a controversial roughly $510 million direct commercial sale of precision-guided munitions and related services that 47 Senators unsuccessfully voted to block in June. President Obama had suspended such munition sales in late 2016 due to concerns regarding civilian deaths caused by Saudi actions in Yemen, where a humanitarian crisis has developed as Saudi-led forces battled with Houthi forces who moved into the Yemeni capital Sana’a in 2014. 

Other missile defense systems, aside from THAAD, accounted for high value potential arms agreements in 2017. Roughly $10.5 billion of the $11.2 billion of arms offered to Poland consisted of radars, missiles, other components and training for the first phase of a Patriot 3+ system. Romania requested 7 radar sets, fire units, and related missiles for a Patriot 3+ system ($3.9 billion of roughly $5 billion request). Instead of missile defense, much of Canada’s request consisted of 18 F/A 18 Super Hornet fighter aircraft ($5.2 billion).

Below is a chart of the top four countries that sought the highest values in U.S. arms exports via the FMS program in 2017, along with some of their specific requests. 

Country

Total Value

Weapons/Services

Saudi Arabia

$17.19 billion

  • AN/TPY-2 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) radars

  • 44 THAAD launchers

  • 360 THAAD missiles

  • 10 74K Persistent Threat Detection System aerostats

  • Navy and Air Force training

Poland

$11.2 billion

  • Phase one of a two phase Patriot 3+ missile defense system, including 4 AN/MPQ-65 radar sets, launching stations, and 208 PAC-3 missiles (missile segment enhancement – MSE)

  • 25 guided multiple launch rocket systems rockets/warheads (GMLRS) and 1,642 guidance and control assemblies for GMLRS

  • 150 AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs)

  • F-16 support

Canada

$5.57 billion

  • 10 F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter aircraft

  • 8 F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter aircraft

  • 32 AIM-120D Advanced Medium-Range Air-to Air Missiles (AMRAAMs)

  • Sustainment support for C-17 transport aircraft

Romania

$5.15 billion

  • 7 Patriot 3+ modernized units including 7 AN/MPQ-65 radar sets, and 56 Guidance Enhanced Missile-TBM (GEM-T) missiles and 168 PAC-3 missiles (missile segment enhancement – MSE)

  • 54 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) launchers, 162 guided multiple launch rocket systems rockets/warheads (GMLRS)

 

Although many of these sales were already being discussed during the previous Obama administration and were generally uncontroversial, Trump did move forward a number of deals that Obama withheld due to human rights concerns. In addition to the precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia via the direct commercial sales (DCS) program, these included deals notified via FMS of 19 new F-16 fighter aircraft and upgrades to 20 F-16s to Bahrain in September (approx. $4 billion), and 12 Super Tucanos light attack aircraft to Nigeria in August ($593 million).

Below is a table of all 28 states, along with the NATO Support and Procurement Agency, which requested U.S. arms sales via the FMS program in 2017, in billions of dollars, in order:

Country

Total Value

($ billion)

Saudi Arabia

17.187

Poland

11.200

Canada

5.565

Romania

5.150

Bahrain

3.964

Australia

2.873

Greece

2.484

UAE

2.000

United Kingdom

1.585

Iraq

1.506

New Zealand

1.460

Taiwan

1.363

Kuwait

1.201

Qatar

1.100

Kenya

0.671

Nigeria

0.593

Czech Republic

0.575

Singapore

0.481

India

0.441

Israel

0.440

NATO

0.334

Norway

0.170

Slovakia

0.150

Netherlands

0.145

South Korea

0.140

Switzerland

0.115

Japan

0.113

Georgia

0.075

Thailand

0.025

Below are the total values of all notified requests each year from 1997 to 2017, in billions of U.S. dollars, as compiled each year (in current dollars, unadjusted for inflation):

Year

Total Value
($, billions, current US dollars)

2017

63

2016

63

2015

51

2014

40

2013

56

2012

53

2011

25

2010

103

2009

39

2008

75

2007

39

2006

37

2005

12

2004

12

2003

7

2002

16

2001

19

2000

12

1999

21

1998

12

1997

11

ENDNOTES

1. The Department of State is also required to report to Congress any commercial sales it approves of “major defense equipment” that amount to $14 million or more, defense articles and services that equal or exceed $50 million, and any items defined as “significant military equipment.” As in the case of FMS sales, Congress can block the sale with a joint resolution of disapproval within 30 calendar days of notification (15 in the case of NATO members, Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea). Commercially licensed sales of firearms controlled under category I of the U.S. Munitions List valued at $1 million or more must also be notified to Congress but are not considered here. There are no official compilations of commercial agreement data comparable to the FMS notifications and what exists is often incomplete and less precise than data on government-to-government transactions (Theohary, Catherine A., Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2008-2015, Washington, D.C., Congressional Research Service, December 19, 2016, p. 16), although the non-profit Security Assistance Monitor is compiling much of this information from public data (including on direct commercial sales [DCS], which are generally in the tens of billions but not as large as FMS). The annual Section 655 report, prepared by the State and Defense Departments for Congress, details commercial licenses approved, but states typically have four years to act under the licenses. The State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls has final responsibility for license applications for commercial defense trade exports and all issues related to defense trade compliance, enforcement, and reporting.

2. Congress approved the higher notification thresholds for NATO members, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand in legislation passed in September 2002. South Korea was added to this list in 2008, and Israel was added in 2010. Congress, however, is free to pass legislation to block or modify an arms sale at any time up to the point of delivery of the items involved.

Sources: Congressional Research Service, Defense Security Cooperation Agency, and Department of State. For more details on Foreign Military Sales and other U.S. programs that result in arms transfer authorizations and deliveries, please also see the Security Assistance Monitor.

Posted: February 6, 2018