WASHINGTON — The U.S. inked $55.6 billion in foreign military sales during fiscal year 2018, easily smashing past the previous year’s total — and the Pentagon’s point man for security cooperation expects more in the future.
“This is a 33 percent increase over last year and I’m very optimistic that this positive trajectory will continue,” said Lt. Gen. Charles Hooper, the head of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, during a speech at the AUSA conference. “Our partners know a good thing when they see one.”
Included in that total are $3.52 billion for cases funded by the State Department’s Foreign Military Financing program; $4.42 billion for cases funded under Defense Department authorities; and $47.71 billion funded through pure FMS cases, per the State Department.
In FY17, the U.S. sold $41.93 billion in FMS deals, and the Pentagon has not been shy about hyping the final dollar total for this year. In July, Hooper said the department had already inked $46.9 billion in deals, and a Pentagon report released last year said that the U.S. had inked $54.45 billion through the end of August.
Sales totals are volatile year over year, depending on what partner nations seek to buy. In FY16, sales totaled $33.6 billion, while FY15 totaled just more than $47 billion and FY14 totaled $34.2 billion.
While this year’s total still falls short of FY12’s all-time record, there is reason for Hooper to be optimistic this is not a one-time boost.
In FY18 the State Department cleared roughly $70 billion in potential FMS deals, spread over 70 individual requests. Those are not hard dollars, but rather a listing of the potential agreements that the State Department has ok’d; if Congress does not object, those potential deals then go into negotiations. Among those requests are a Saudi request for THAAD ($15 billion) and a Polish request for Patriot PAC-3 batteries ($10.5 billion), either one of which would give a massive boost for a potential FY19 total if completed on time.
In addition, the Trump administration has made pushing foreign weapon sales a key part of its economic growth strategy, pushing out a new conventional arms transfer policy to make it easier to sell defense articles abroad.
And Hooper is not alone in his optimism. Speaking to reporters in September, Andrea Thompson, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said, “I would anticipate — I am an optimist and a realist — that next year’s numbers will be higher than this year’s numbers."
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.