U.S. arms sales rise to $175 billion in fiscal year 2020

By Justin Doubleday / December 4, 2020 at 2:42 PM

The United States authorized $175 billion in defense sales to foreign nations in fiscal year 2020, U.S. officials announced today.

The FY-20 total represents a 2.8% increase above the $170 billion in arms sales authorized in FY-19, according to a fact sheet released by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. The $175 billion figure includes $50.8 billion in implemented foreign military sales cases and $124.3 billion in direct commercial sales.

The potential value of congressionally notified FMS cases in FY-20 rose to $87.6 billion in FY-20, up from $58.3 billion in FY-19. The increase was driven by the potential sale of $23.1 billion worth of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Japan, according to R. Clarke Cooper, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs. He said it was the second largest notified sale ever authorized by the State Department.

"This and other multibillion-dollar sales . . . if concluded argue for continued strong FMS sales well into fiscal year '21," Cooper said during a Pentagon press briefing today.

DSCA Director Heidi Grant said the three-year rolling average for FMS rose to $54 billion in FY-20, up 5.8% from FY-19.

"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," Grant said today. "The sales demonstrate that the United States continues to be the global security partner of choice."

Cooper said the U.S. government sought to improve the FMS process this year while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. He highlighted the Trump administration's decision to modify its interpretation of the Missile Technology Control Regime, paving the way for increased U.S. sales of large, armed unmanned aerial systems.

In November, the State Department approved Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates to purchase the MQ-9B UAS as the first sales under the new policy.

Meanwhile, the UAE has also been authorized to purchase F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, but the sale faces opposition from Democrats in Congress due to the UAE military's killing of civilians in the war in Yemen. The deal could also be reversed by the incoming Biden administration.

The congressional review period for the UAE sale ends next week and, if Congress cannot muster a veto-proof majority to vote through legislation blocking the deal, the Trump administration appears ready to scramble to get the deal on contract before President-elect Biden takes office.

Asked whether the UAE deal could be completed before Jan. 20, Grant said, "Absolutely it's possible, but we don't control it. We are waiting on the Congress to benchmark, and then we're going to wait once we offer it to the Emirates . . . but it's possible."