Albion Monitor /News

Military Wants More Arms Trafficking

Navy: The United States should seek greater dominance of the international arms market

Noting that the United States is now responsible for about half of all new weapons sold around the world, Assistant Secretary of State Thomas McNamara told a forum that the government attempts to restrain the international arms trade -- yet vigorously supports U.S. firms that sell weapons to approved countries.

Weapons manufacturers, market analysts and government officials gathered at the State Department on September 20th for a meeting of the Defense Trade Advisory Group. This government/industry forum meets twice annually in a partially public meeting to discuss U.S. arms export policy. For the first time, members of the military services -- Army, Navy and Air Force -- addressed the group.

In what was undoubtedly the most impassioned presentation, Rear Admiral John Snyder, Deputy Director, Navy International Programs Office, argued that the United States should seek greater dominance of the international arms market. The United States, Snyder said, currently exercises "unrealistic restraint."

"I'd much rather go to war against a country that has bought U.S. equipment"

Snyder said: "When you look around the world right now, and you look at where there is major conflict, generally speaking, people are not killing people with U.S. weapons."

"It is my opinion that we exercise...far more restraint on our arms transfers than any other country that I have seen operating in the world. You might want to argue that point, but...we really, really worry about every single bullet, or piece of technology, or gun, or airplane, or anything that we transfer throughout the world."

"I'd much rather go to war against a country that has bought U.S. equipment, than a country that's bought comparable equipment from France, or from Russia, or from Israel, or from any other country. If they got equipment from the United States, I know damn well what they got in their inventory, I know what their readiness is....I also know what their tactics are, and I know how to defeat their weapons" Snyder said; "if a country's going to get technology anyway, let's make it U.S. technology."

General Hale Burr, Jr., Assistant Deputy Secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs, said the Air Force is currently managing arms contracts totaling $108 billion. Equipment sales represent about three-quarters of this total, support about 20 percent and training about 1 percent. Burr said arms sales are necessary because the United States increasingly will need to fight with coalition partners, and this is simplified by having common equipment.

Roughly half of the sales are destined for the Middle East and Africa, with the other half split between Europe and the Pacific. Only one percent of Air Force sales currently go to Latin America, but Burr -- perhaps yearningly -- said that Chile, Argentina and Brazil have all expressed interest in buying used F-16s. The administration has maintained a policy of denying exports of advanced fighters to the region.

Frank Besson, Director of Security Assistance for the Army, noted that arms sales are "big business for the Army." The Army has over 5,000 active foreign military sales cases worth $47 billion, with some $24 billion to be delivered. Besson noted that sales benefit his branch of the military: "If we can sell it overseas, the price comes way down for the U.S. Army."

In closing, McNamara dampened the Army/Navy/Air Force salesmen's dreams somewhat, saying he does not "foresee the day when arms sales by the United States will be treated as identical with non-military exports. Arms sales are a special category and need to be treated as a special category."

A version of this report first appeared in Arms Sales Monitor, a publication of the Federation of American Scientists.

Albion Monitor December 21, 1995 (

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