US Increases Arms Sales Despite Biden Election Pledge

October 24th, 2022 - by Maya Yang / The Guardian

‘Report by Quincy Institute Says ‘Current US Arms Policy and Practice Too often Fuel War Rather than Deters It’

Maya Yang / The Guardian

LONDON (October 20, 2022) — Despite an election pledge by Joe Biden to not “check [America’s] values at the door” when it comes to arms sales, the US has increased, not decreased, its weapons sales around the world, including to countries with repressive regimes, a new report reveals.

According to the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a Washington-based thinktank, most of the sales also involve just four companies: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and General Dynamics. The four were involved in 58% all the major offers made since the Biden administration took office.

“The concentrated lobbying power of these companies — including a “revolving door” from the Pentagon’s arms sales agency and the leveraging of weapons export-related jobs into political influence — has been brought to bear in efforts to expand US weapons exports to as many foreign clients as possible, often by helping to exaggerate threats,” said the report, released on Thursday.

US arms offers did drop sharply in the first year of the Biden administration, from $110.9 billion in the last year of the Donald Trump administration to just $36 billion. The report suggests the decrease could be partly due to a “less aggressive approach” to arms sales promotion but was more likely the result of market saturation, caused by a large volume of deals concluded during the presidencies of Barack Obama and Trump.

As of October, annual arms offers have increased to $65 billion, partly due to increased sales to Europe and Asia — “tied to the Pentagon’s focus on ‘great power competition’ with Russia and China”.

“Current US arms policy and practice too often fuel war rather than deterring it. Roughly two-thirds of current conflicts — 34 out of 46 — involve one or more parties armed by the United States,” the report said.

“Of the US-supplied nations at war, 16 received $50 million or more worth of US arms between 2017 and 2021. This contradicts the longstanding argument that US arms routinely promote stability and deter conflict,” it added.

Indonesia ranks first in the top recipient of US arms deals as of September, with $13.9 billion in offers, according to the report. Greece and Germany come in next at $10.2 billion and $10.1 billion. Between Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates — the bottom three recipients — total offers between $3.4 billion and $4.7 billion have been made from January 2021 to September this year.

Lockheed Martin had the largest share of involvement in major deals. The weapons it produces are the main component of deals worth $25.8 billion since February 2021, the report said.

Boeing came in second, with arms deals at $22.65 billion, followed by General Dynamics at $7.7 billion since February 2021, including a $6 billion offer of M-1 tanks to Poland and a share of a $1.7 billion worth of heavy armored vehicles to Australia. Raytheon ranked fourth, involved in deals worth $4.7 billion.

“The biggest payoffs for major contractors come from sales of combat aircraft, followed by missile defense systems,” the report said.

In 2021, the arms industry employed 766 lobbyists — “far more than one for every member of Congress”, the report found.

“Arms exporters and the US government routinely cite job creation as a reason to sell weapons to foreign clients. But the number of jobs associated with arms sales is greatly exaggerated … Spending on weapons produces 40 percent fewer jobs than spending on infrastructure or green energy, and 100 percent fewer jobs than spending on education,” it said.

The think tank recommended a number of policy measures including restricting the revolving door between government and industry in attempts to weaken the control that weapons manufacturers have over arms-transfer decision-making.

The report also called on Congress to revise the Arms Export Control Act to require an affirmative congressional vote on major deals, instead of the current system that simply requires a veto-proof majority to block any arms deal.

And it urged the Biden administration to provide greater transparency on the delivery and use of US arms.

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