Record-Breaking Year for Foreign Military Sales
Government-to-government sales of U.S. manufactured defense goods rose from $35 billion in 2011 to $69 billion, said Thomas Kelly, principal deputy assistant secretary at the State Department's bureau of political-military affairs.
That is five times the yearly average of a decade ago, he said at the National Defense Industrial Association's Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict conference in Washington, D.C.
Kelly's office oversees State Department approvals of such sales. He predicted that this number will continue to rise as the Obama administration continues its efforts to streamline and update the nation's export control policies.
The National Defense Authorization Act passed earlier this month allowed the administration to loosen restrictions on foreign sales of commercial satellites and their components. Other sectors of the industry are slated to follow. Defense companies have long complained about having to obtain special licenses to export military goods that are now widely available in other countries. They have also said the process is long and onerous, although the three departments involved in issuing licenses, Commerce, Defense and State, said they have made strides in shortening the procedures.
From a State Department point of view, foreign military sales are beneficial for diplomatic and military relationships, Kelly said.
Quoting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Kelly said building coalitions for common actions is becoming both more complicated and more crucial. Military hardware sales serve to strengthen bonds, he said. A fighter jet, for example, will require technology upgrades and spare parts for up to 40 years.
"One of the most direct ways the United States can partner with countries is through the sale or transfer of U.S. defense equipment," he said.
The State Department maintains control over the procedures because sales of such equipment have profound foreign policy implications, he said. "At their core, they are really a foreign policy function," he said. the State Department looks at human rights, regional stability and nonproliferation concerns before approving the sales.
Every sale reinforces relationship and establishes long-term security partnerships, he said.
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