U.S. sales of conventional weaponry worldwide through a Pentagon agency totaled about $40 billion in 2015, once again far surpassing the efforts of Russia, China and other competitors in the international arms bazaar, according to the Congressional Research Service.
However, the $40 billion was only a fraction of the more than $200 billion in arms estimated to have been sold separately by U.S. defense firms in 2015 under commercial licenses, an independent think tank reported.
The non-partisan CRS, an arm of the Library of Congress, said in a report last week that U.S. Foreign Military Sales through the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency for arms, defense services and military training rose by $4 billion last year to about $40 billion, or about half of the total global arms trade of $80 billion.
France ranked second as a weapons dealer with $15 billion in sales, followed by Russia with $11.1 billion and China with $6 billion, the CRS said in the report titled "Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations 2008-2001."
Countries listed as developing nations bought from all selling nations a total of $65 billion in weaponry in 2015, down from $79 billion in 2014, the CRS said. Some of the major buyers among "developing" nations were Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq and South Korea.
In the report summary, the CRS stated, "For decades, during the height of the Cold War, providing conventional weapons to friendly states was an instrument of foreign policy utilized by the United States and its allies," and was meant to offset arms transfers by the Soviet Union and its allies.
"Following the Cold War's end, U.S. arms transfer policy has been based on maintaining or augmenting friendly and allied nations' ability to deal with regional security threats and concerns," the CRS said.
The report also said that U.S. Foreign Military Sales through the Defense Security Cooperation Agency covered only a fraction of the arms flow from the U.S. to foreign countries since it did not include arms sold separately by defense firms under commercial licenses approved by the State Department.
"The United States is the only major arms supplier that has two distinct systems for the export of weapons: the government-to-government Foreign Military Sales (FMS) system, and the licensed commercial export system," the CRS said.
The CRS did not estimate the amount of sales by U.S. firms under commercial licenses, but the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), an independent global security outlet, said that U.S. commercial arms transfers were more than five times the $40 billion amount under the Foreign Military Sales program
In a report earlier this month, SIPRI said, "Companies based in the United States continue to dominate the Top 100 [arms firms] with total arms sales amounting to $209.7 billion for 2015."
"Lockheed Martin remains the largest arms producer in the world," said Aude Fleurant, director of SIPRI's Arms and Military Expenditure Program. "However, U.S. companies' arms sales are constrained by caps on U.S. military spending, delays in deliveries major weapon systems and the strength of the U.S. dollar, which has negatively affected export sales."
In another report earlier this month, the Army said that its U.S. Army Security Assistance Command closed fiscal 2016 with $14.8 billion in new business under the overall Foreign Military Sales program to mark "yet another successful year in foreign military sales."
"The command, which develops and manages the Army's security assistance programs and Foreign Military Sales, is currently managing more than 5,722 FMS cases valued at $175.9 billion in 147 countries," the Army said in a release.
U.S. Central Command alone is handling $7.4 billion in new business and more than 2,000 active cases totaling $126 billion, the Army said.
Among the major sales in CentCom's area in fiscal 2016 were $1.65 billion for Patriot III anti-missile systems for Saudi Arabia and $477 million for refurbishing Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles for the United Arab Emirates, the Army said.