from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2011, Issue No. 92
September 26, 2011

Secrecy News Blog:


Led by the United States, arms-exporting nations are competing ever more intensely to win lucrative sales contracts in a shrinking global marketplace, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

"Worldwide weapons sales declined generally in 2010 in response to the constraints created by the tenuous state of the global economy," the report said.

The value of all arms transfer *agreements* with developing nations declined from $49.8 billion in 2009 to over $30.7 billion in 2010. At the same time, however, the value of all arms *deliveries* to developing nations was nearly $21.9 billion, which is "the highest total in these deliveries values since 2006." See "Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2003-2010" by Richard F. Grimmett, Congressional Research Service, September 22, 2011:

Yet "as new arms sales have become more difficult to conclude since the global recession began, competition among sellers has become increasingly intense," the report said. "A number of weapons-exporting nations are focusing not only on the clients with whom they have held historic competitive advantages, due to well-established military-support relationships, but also on potential new clients in countries and regions where they have not been traditional arms suppliers."

Meanwhile, "[D]eveloping nations have been leveraging their attractiveness as clients by demanding greater cost offsetting elements in their arms contracts, as well as transfer of more advanced technology and provisions for domestic production options," the report said.

The United States dominates the global arms market both in sales agreements and in deliveries, according to the CRS report, which was first reported in the New York Times on September 24.

The annual CRS reports prepared by Mr. Grimmett are authoritative compilations of official data on arms transfers, based on privileged access by CRS to government records. As such, they may have enduring reference value for researchers in the field (despite the fact that the reports do not include clandestine or covert transfers). A collection of all CRS annual reports on conventional arms transfers dating back to 1982 is available on the Federation of American Scientists website here:

Additional background is available from the FAS Arms Sales Monitoring Project.


The Brennan Center for Justice will sponsor a panel discussion October 5 at the National Press Club in Washington DC on overclassification and "Curbing Needless Secrecy" to accompany the release of a new report on the subject. Participants include former Rep. Christopher Shays, former ISOO director J. William Leonard, former NRO director and chair of the Public Interest Declassification Board Martin C. Faga, and Elizabeth Goitein of the Brennan Center.


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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