Military Exports:

Recovery of Nonrecurring Research and Development Costs

NSIAD-95-147: Published: May 31, 1995. Publicly Released: Jun 12, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on military exports, focusing on: (1) the government's recovery of nonrecurring research and development costs on sales of major defense equipment; (2) the effect of charging a flat or standard rate rather than the current pro rata fee; and (3) views from supporters and opponents on the recovery of these costs.

GAO found that: (1) the Department of Defense recovered $181 million in nonrecurring costs on foreign military sales in fiscal year (FY) 1994 and estimated, based on historical trends, that collections could amount to $845 million between FY 1995 and 1999; (2) the Defense Security Assistance Agency waived almost $273 million in nonrecurring cost charges on sales to North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries and Japan in FY 1994; (3) the total value of waivers for FY 1991 through 1994 amounted to $773 million; (4) if the charge for nonrecurring costs is repealed, some collections would continue for a few more years as the charges are recovered on deliveries associated with prior years' sales; (5) if the legislative requirement to collect nonrecurring cost charges is not repealed, one alternative to the current pro rata charge is a flat rate charge, which would be easy to calculate and would not need to be periodically updated, as is the case in calculating a pro rata charge; (6) the effect of a flat rate varies depending on the way it is applied, in some cases the amount the U.S. government would collect on each unit sold would be less than the pro rate charge, in others it would be considerably more; (7) the total charges for each of four categories of 68 weapons systems (projectiles, missiles, aircraft, and aircraft engines) were generally lower than the current pro rata charges when using three and five percent flat rates but were comparable or higher for the most part when using eight and ten percent flat rates; (8) the differences between the pro rata charges and the flat rate charges for each of the 68 weapons systems varied widely for the same four flat rates and, for example, were considerably higher for some aircraft but lower for some missiles; (9) the average of the current pro rata charge on the acquisition cost of the 68 weapons systems was 5.18 percent; (10) supporters and opponents of recovery of nonrecurring costs differ on its benefits and drawbacks; (11) supporters, including some arms control advocates, believe that the charges serve national security interests by keeping weapons systems out of unstable regions of the world and the weapons industry should not be subsidized at taxpayers' expense; (12) opponents believe the charges adversely affect U.S. industry's competitiveness in the world market and could affect the U.S. economy in the long run; and (13) the United States has been the world's leading defense exporter since 1990, and based on orders received but not yet filled, the United States is likely to retain its first place position in the world market for at least the short term.

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