WASHINGTON— The U.S. has sold more weapons to other nations in the first half of fiscal year 2018 than it did in all of fiscal year 2017. Is that sustainable?
It is if you ask a top State Department official, .
“I would anticipate—I am an optimist and a realist—that next year’s numbers will be higher than this year’s numbers," Andrea Thompson, Undersecretary of State- Arms Control and International Security, said during a Sept. 7 meeting with reporters.
That would appear to be a tall order. According to numbers from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the U.S. has signed $46.9 billion in weapons sales to foreign partners and allies, smashing past the $41.9 billion figure from all of fiscal 2017.
But Thompson points to new policies put forth earlier this year from the Trump administration, designed to encourage American arms exports and bolster domestic industry, as a factor that will have a direct impact next fiscal year.
“The CAT [conventional arms transfer] policy will have been in place, we’ll have gained those efficiencies and feedback from industry and partners,” she told the Defense Writer’s Group, adding that the policy is designed to go through continual updates to keep it relevant. “So I would anticipate that would increase sales, one would think.”
Other policies targeted at encouraging partners to buy American goods, including dropping surcharges on products and lowering the cost of transportation for weapons, are also under way, with DSCA head Lt. Gen. Charles Hooper leading the charge.
One potential boost could come from India, a lucrative market that U.S. firms have long eyed.
While travelling to India, Hooper told reporters that he is “quite confident” that the systems America is selling will find an audience in India.
“Whether it's the aerospace domain, land systems or maritime systems, all of our systems are extraordinarily competitive, and I'm sure. will suit India's needs now and into the future,” Hooper said.
However, any expectations for India should be tempered by reality. The nation is famously slow to procure weapons, with some deals falling apart or altering even after contract are signed. Compliance with the country’s Make in India policy is also complicated.
Asked about that challenge, Hooper said updates to how the DSCA process works, including greater transparency about costs and timelines at the start of the process, “helps a great deal” to speed up the process.
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.