During 2007, the Pentagon notified Congress of an estimated $39 billion in proposed, government-to-government, conventional arms transfer agreements with 23 countries and Taiwan.
The United States conducts government-to-government 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” which total $50 million or more; and construction or design services amounting to or surpassing $200 million. However, if the proposed sale involves NATO members, Australia, Japan, 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. Once notified, Congress has 30 calendar days (15 in the case of NATO members, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand) to block a sale by passing a joint resolution of disapproval, though it has never stopped a sale once formally notified.
The proposed 2007 arms sales total was $2.4 billion higher than the 2006 sum of almost $37 billion and more than three times the 2005 tally of $12.3 billion. Eleven countries requested more than a billion dollars worth of U.S. arms. They were Australia, Egypt, India, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the United Kingdom.
The UAE requested the highest value of U.S. arms, asking for $10.4 billion in possible purchases. Its inaugural bid to acquire short- and medium-range anti-missile Patriot systems accounted for $9 billion of the UAE total. The UAE, which several years ago acquired 80 F-16C/D fighters from the United States, sits across the Persian Gulf from Iran, a country steadily working to enhance its ballistic missile capabilities. Another Iranian neighbor, Iraq, ranked second in total possible U.S. weapons purchases. Iraqi requests, however, were more focused on procuring weapons, ammunition, and equipment to bolster its ground forces to battle anti-government and anti-U.S. forces inside Iraqi borders. Other top potential buyers from the Middle East region include Israel ($2.5 billion), Kuwait ($1.7 billion), Egypt ($1.27 billion), and Saudi Arabia ($1.25 billion).
After a two-year absence, Taiwan returned to the top ranks of U.S. arms buyers by moving forward on a nearly $2-billion purchase of a dozen anti-submarine aircraft first offered in 2001 by the United States. Taiwan also requested upgrades to its existing Patriot systems and a variety of missiles and bombs to arm its combat aircraft. China strongly objects to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, which Beijing contends is a renegade province that must eventually come under Beijing’s control. It has not ruled out the use of force to achieve that objective, particularly if Taiwan asserts its independence.
As in past years, a significant portion of the proposed deals were requests for upgrades, modifications, and support for previously purchased aircraft, armed vehicles, and missile systems. Still, many countries sought an array of new aircraft and missile purchases. Below are the six countries that sought the highest values in U.S. arms exports in 2007 and some of their specific requests.
The United Arab Emirates
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, Japan, and New Zealand). There are no official compilations of commercial agreement data and it is often incomplete and less precise than data on government-to-government transactions (Grimmett, Richard F., Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 1999-2006, Washington, D.C., Congressional Research Service, September 26, 2007, p. 20). The annual Section 655 report, prepared by the State and Defense Departments for Congress, details commercial licenses approved, but states have four years to act under the licenses. The State Department’s Office 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.
Sources: Congressional Research Service, Defense Security Cooperation Agency, and Department of State.