A study by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) found that U.S. arms sales surged last year, despite the worst global economic downturn in decades. (UPDATE: WPR subscribers can download the CRS report here.) In 2008, U.S. arms dealers signed new weapons contracts worth approximately $37.8 billion, a considerable increase from previous years. The surge was remarkable given that the total volume of new arms orders in 2008, $55.2 billion, was billions of dollars below the comparable figures for 2007 and 2006.
The United States also fortified its position as the leading arms-exporting country. Last year, the volume of global defense contracts involving the United States exceeded those of all other countries combined. The nearest competitors were Italy, with $3.7 billion in global arms sales agreements, and Russia, with $3.5 billion in weapons contracts. In 2007, the United States government accounted for only 41 percent of the value of all weapons orders, with an estimated value of $24.8 billion (.pdf). This figure still represented a major rise over the 2006 figure of $16.7 billion.
Americans defense firms also retained their dominant position in sales to developing countries, where the competition among international arms exporters can be greatest. Of the $42.2 billion worth of weapons purchased by developing countries in 2008, over 70 percent ($29.6 billion) involved the United States. The United Arab Emirates ($9.7 billion), Saudi Arabia ($8.7 billion), and Morocco ($5.4 billion) were the leading arms purchasers among the developing countries. The United Arab Emirates, Morocco, and Taiwan signed especially large defense contracts with American firms last year. Although Saudi Arabia remained an important U.S. military client, it did not conclude any major new contracts last year.