Up for Debate: Should U.S. Reduce Arms Sales Abroad?

Over the coming year, high school students around the country will debate whether the U.S. should reduce its arms sales to foreign countries.

Specifically, the national debate topic that was selected for the 2019-20 school year is: Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reduce Direct Commercial Sales and/or Foreign Military Sales of arms from the United States.

As required by statute, the Congressional Research Service prepared a bibliography reflecting diverse points of view on U.S. arms sales to help inform student debaters on this topic.

“This selective bibliography, with brief annotations, is intended to assist debaters in identifying resources and references on the national debate topic,” the CRS document says. “It lists citations to journal articles, books, congressional publications, legal cases, and websites. The bibliography is divided into three broad sections: basic concepts and definitions, general overviews, and specific cases.”

The runner-up topic for this year’s national high school debate was: Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially change its nuclear weapons strategy.

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Other noteworthy new publications from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

The Department of Defense’s JEDI Cloud Program, updated August 2, 2019

Department of Defense Energy Management: Background and Issues for Congress, July 25, 2019

U.S.-Iran Tensions and Implications for U.S. Policy, updated July 29, 2019

3D Printing: Overview, Impacts, and the Federal Role, August 2, 2019

Resolutions to Censure the President: Procedure and History, updated August 1, 2019

Rising China Sells More Weapons

“In 2018, China’s arms sales increased, continuing a trend that enabled China to become the world’s fastest-growing arms supplier during the past 15 years,” according to the 2019 China Military Power report published by the Department of Defense. “From 2013 through 2017, China was the world’s fourth-largest arms supplier, completing more than $25 billion worth of arms sales.”

“Arms transfers also are a component of China’s foreign policy, used in conjunction with other types of military, economic aid, and development assistance to support broader foreign policy goals,” the Pentagon report said. “These include securing access to natural resources and export markets, promoting political influence among host country elites, and building support in international forums.”

Needless to say, the United States and other countries have long done the same thing, using arms exports as an instrument of foreign policy and political influence. Up to a point, however, US arms sales are regulated by laws that include human rights and other considerations. See U.S. Arms Sales and Human Rights: Legislative Basis and Frequently Asked QuestionsCRS In Focus, May 2, 2019.

To assist soldiers in identifying Chinese weapons in the field, the US Army has produced a deck of “playing cards” featuring various weapons systems.

“The Worldwide Equipment Identification Playing Cards enable Soldiers to be able to readily identify enemy equipment and distinguish the equipment from friendly forces. Cards can be used at every level and across all services.” See Worldwide Equipment Identification Cards: China Edition, US Army TRADOC, April 2019.

US Dominates Global Arms Sales: CRS

Last year, the United States led the world in arms sales, tallying up $36.2 billion in worldwide arms transfer agreements. Russia took second place with $10.2 billion in arms transfer agreements, out of a global total of $71.8 billion in 2014.

This information, and much more on the subject, was presented in a new report from the Congressional Research Service on Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2007-2014, dated December 21, 2015.

The contents of the 70-page report were first described in the New York Times on December 25. The day before, relatedly, the Department of State published its own statutorily-required report on World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers, covering the period 2002-2012.

Annual CRS reports on arms transfers had been the province of CRS specialist Richard F. Grimmett for three decades from the first such report in 1982 until his retirement in 2012. The CRS arms transfer reports are still known informally in some graying circles as “the Grimmett reports.” Besides his own considerable subject matter expertise, Grimmett seemed to have “sources” in the executive branch, making his work difficult to replicate or extend by others, no matter how diligent they might be. And for the past three years, no one at CRS has produced a follow-on report in the series until last week’s new report, authored by specialist Catherine A. Theohary.

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The role of diversity (e.g. of race, sex, or sexual preference) in the U.S. military is examined in another new report from the Congressional Research Service.

Do measures to enhance diversity in the armed services conflict with the military’s meritocratic culture? Does enforced diversity weaken readiness or strengthen it? Or perhaps weaken it in the short term and strengthen it in the long term?

Admitting no policy preference of its own, the CRS report (authored by analyst Kristy N. Kamarck) does a thorough job of representing the various competing and contrasting views on the subject.  See Diversity, Inclusion, and Equal Opportunity in the Armed Services: Background and Issues for Congress, December 23, 2015.

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Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that were issued last week include the following.

The Federal Election Commission: Enforcement Process and Selected Issues for Congress, December 22, 2015

The Federal Election Commission: Overview and Selected Issues for Congress, December 22, 2015

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief, updated December 23, 2015

Haiti Under President Martelly: Current Conditions and Congressional Concerns, updated December 23, 2015

Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, updated December 22, 2015

Maritime Territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Disputes Involving China: Issues for Congress, updated December 22, 2015

Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress, updated December 21, 2015

The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program: Overview and Impact of the Affordable Care Act, December 21, 2015

Small Business Administration (SBA) Funding: Overview and Recent Trends, updated December 24, 2015

Small Business Administration: A Primer on Programs and Funding, updated December 23, 2015

Nuclear Energy: Overview of Congressional Issues, updated December 23, 2015

Salaries of Members of Congress: Recent Actions and Historical Tables, updated December 23, 2015

Salaries of Members of Congress: Congressional Votes, 1990-2015, updated December 23, 2015

Western Water and Drought: Legislative Analysis of H.R. 2898 and S. 1894, December 23, 2015

Air Quality: EPA’s 2013 Changes to the Particulate Matter (PM) Standard, updated December 23, 2015

2013 National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5): Designating Nonattainment Areas, updated December 23, 2015

Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)/Frigate Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated December 22, 2015

Congressional Efforts to Reduce Restrictions on Growing Industrial Hemp, CRS Insight, updated December 23, 2015

Security Assistance & Foreign Internal Defense

Through its international security assistance programs, the United States advances its foreign policy agenda, exercises influence, sometimes wreaks havoc or abets abusive conduct, and now and then does good things.

Security assistance refers to a variety of programs involving arms sales abroad, military training of foreign security services, and other defense-related activities.

A new non-profit website called Security Assistance Monitor presents “all publicly available data on U.S. foreign security assistance programs worldwide from 2000 to the present.”

It is a project of the Center for International Policy, with the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Latin America Working Group Education Fund, Project on Middle East Democracy, and Washington Office of Latin America.

Richly documented and handsomely presented, it is an impressive new resource for journalists and students of international security policy.

Foreign Internal Defense (FID) is a related but distinct concept. Both involve support to foreign governments, but unlike security assistance, FID may include U.S. military operations as well as other forms of non-military aid.

FID “involves application of the instruments of U.S. national power in support of a foreign nation confronted by threats,” according to a new U.S. Army manual that explores the issue in depth. See Foreign Internal Defense, Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 3-05.2, August 19, 2015.

“FID may include financial, intelligence, and law enforcement assistance” as well as military support in some cases. “The fundamental goal is to prevent a downward spiral of instability by forestalling and defeating threats and by working to correct conditions that may prompt violence.”

Documents shed important light on Viktor Bout case

By Matt Schroeder

As the trial against alleged arms dealer Viktor Bout gets underway, we thought the following documents from the case might be of interest:

(1) Handwritten notes that Bout reportedly took during the meeting in Thailand. The notes include short-hand references to various weapons, including “AA” or anti-aircraft (believed to be a reference to Igla missiles), “AK-47,” “UAV” (unmanned aerial vehicle), 10,000,000 “7,62 x 54” (ammunition used in Russian Dragunov sniper rifles and PKM machine guns), RPG-7 and RPG-22 rocket launchers, and “AG-17” – presumably a reference to the AGS-17 30 mm automatic grenade launcher. Some of the notes are more cryptic, including references to 500 “60 mm”, 200 “82 mm” and 40 “120 mm.” Presumably, these are references to mortars since 60mm, 82mm and 120mm are all common calibers for mortar rounds.

(2) A print-out of an email that Bout allegedly sent to one of the DEA’s confidential sources. This email is mentioned prominently in other court documents made public shortly after Bout was arrested. Oddly, the email was reportedly sent from an address linked to an account set up by a “Victor But.” Use of an alias so close to his own name when setting up an email account intended for negotiating arms transfers seems uncharacteristically careless for Bout.

(3) Excerpts from pamphlets on Soviet-era cargo planes that Bout allegedly recommended for delivering weapons to the FARC. According to investigators, the weapons were to be air-dropped from these planes. The same delivery method was used by the orchestrators of a 1999 plot to divert to the FARC 50,000 Jordanian assault rifles intended for the Peruvian military. The traffickers managed to drop 10,000 of the rifles into FARC-controlled areas of Colombia before the government of Jordan learned of the scheme and canceled the deal. In their book, Merchant of Death, Doug Farah and Stephen Braun suggest that Bout was linked to the diversion. They claim that the plane used to deliver the rifles “…belong[ed] to one of Bout’s front companies…”

(4) One of several articles on the FARC that describes their criminal activities.

(5) A map of South America that Bout reportedly used in discussions about the locations of American radar stations.

(6) Technical documents on anti-tank missiles that Bout allegedly offered to sell to the FARC. The documents were reportedly taken from a memory stick provided to the DEA during the sting. It appears that missile on offer was the AT-4 Spigot, a wire-guided Russian missile system that has a maximum range of 2000-2500 meters and can penetrate up to 400-460 mm of armor, depending on the type of missile used.

The documents (and the above assessments) were originally posted on the Strategic Security Blog in 2009. The original post, which contains additional analysis, is available here.

Documents Obtained by FAS Shed New Light on US Arms Transfers

by Matt Schroeder

The Federation of American Scientists has acquired two previously unreleased US government reports on arms transfers, one on recent sales of US weapons and the other on arms purchased for the Afghanistan government with US military aid. Both documents were acquired under the Freedom of Information Act.

The first report, which is often referred to as the Section 36(a) report after the section in the Arms Export Control Act that requires it, contains data on, inter alia, Foreign Military Sales, transfers of Excess Defense Articles, grants and loans through the Foreign Military Financing Program, projected arms sales, Foreign Military Construction Sales, and Security Assistance Surveys (including end-use monitoring). The report contains detailed data on transfers of Major Defense Equipment in 2009 and the total value of arms transfers by country in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2010 (1 October – 31 December 2009). Given recent unrest in the Middle East, data on recent or pending arms sales to Bahrain, Egypt, and Yemen is likely to be of particular interest.

The other document acquired by the FAS is a lengthy (137 page) list of arms procured through the Defense Department’s Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF). The millions of items listed in the report range from “drugs and surgical dressings” to M24 sniper rifles to Russian cargo aircraft. Given that many of these purchases are not recorded in the main annual reports on US arms sales, this document may be the most complete (consolidated) source of data on items acquired through the ASFF.

Missile Watch – November 2010

Missile Watch

A publication of the FAS Arms Sales Monitoring Project

Vol. 3, Issue 3

November 2010

Editor: Matt Schroeder

Contents:

Editor’s Note: Wikileaks and arms trafficking, Missile Watch sponsorship program

Global News: UN Arms Register: Venezuela was the largest importer of MANPADS in 2009

Global News: Extradition of Viktor Bout could reveal much about the illicit arms trade

Afghanistan: No evidence of Iranian MANPADS training, claims NATO official

Egypt: Another Massive Missile Cache Discovered in the Sinai

Somalia: Photos of missile confirms claims in UN report, but questions remain

United States: FAS obtains key counter-MANPADS report

Additional News & Resources

About the Authors

About Missile Watch

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Editor’s Note

The surprise extradition of notorious arms trafficker Viktor Bout to the United States tops the list of developments covered in this edition of Missile Watch. The former Russian intelligence officer is widely considered to be one of the most prolific arms traffickers of the last twenty years, and his trial is likely to yield important new insights into the illicit arms trade. Also noteworthy is the release of the Department of Homeland Security’s final report on its counter-MANPADS program. The report confirms that two anti-missile systems evaluated during the program are capable of protecting planes from MANPADS, but the $43 billion price tag may preclude their installation on more than a small number of airliners.

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Report reveals $11.7 billion in arms deliveries in 2009, but sheds little light on individual exports

By Matt Schroeder

Deliveries of arms through the Defense Department’s Foreign Military Sales Program (FMS) increased by nearly $700 million in fiscal year (FY) 2009, according to the most recent edition of the Annual Military Assistance Report. The report, which is often referred to as the “Section 655 Report,” is compiled each year by the Defense Department and the State Department. The Defense Department’s contributions to the annual report are acquired by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) through annual requests under the Freedom of Information Act. While the report is useful for tracking trends in the overall value of certain types of arms sales to specific countries, it provides very little detailed information on individual exports, or exports arranged through non-traditional US military aid programs. Changing the way the data is aggregated and presented, and expanding the report to include data on all arms exports, would make the report more useful and improve congressional and public understanding of US arms exports.

Click here to read the full article.

Missile Watch – June 2010


Missile Watch

A publication of the FAS Arms Sales Monitoring Project
Vol. 3, Issue 2
June 2010
Editor: Matt Schroeder
Contributing Author: Scoville Fellow Matt Buongiorno

Contents:

Global News: Survey of black market prices for shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles reveals large differences in missile prices
Afghanistan: No shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles in seized Afghan arms caches, confirms ISAF spokesperson
Egypt: Shoulder-fired missiles found in the Sinai were old, “in very bad condition,” says Egyptian official
Iraq: Shoulder-fired missile in video of insurgent attack could be Iranian
Iraq: Missile seized in 2008 was a 30-year-old Russian Strela-2M MANPADS, documents reveal
Iraq: At least 27 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles seized from arms caches in Iraq since February
Lebanon: Israeli claim about Igla-S delivery to Hezbollah raises many questions
Peru: U.S. government concerned over reported missile diversion in Peru, but praises investigation
Somalia: Shoulder-fired missile attack at Mogadishu airport foiled by peace-keepers, according to UN report

Additional News & Resources

About Missile Watch

About the Authors

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New Study Examines Global Trade in Ammunition

The global trade in ammunition for small arms and light weapons is worth an estimated $4.3 billion, according to a comprehensive new study released today.

Findings from the study, which is co-authored by Matt Schroeder of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), appears as a chapter in Small Arms Survey 2010: Gangs, Groups, and Guns.

The study is part of a multi-year assessment of authorized international transfers of small arms and light weapons, their parts, accessories and ammunition. Previous findings on the international trade in firearms are available in last year’s edition of the Small Arms Survey’s annual yearbook.

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