Foreign Military Sales:

A Potential Drain on the U.S. Defense Posture

LCD-77-440: Published: Sep 2, 1977. Publicly Released: Sep 2, 1977.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

In the past 7 years, foreign military sales volume grew from $952 million to over $8.7 billion. The United States has dominated the world arms market since 1965 and now controls it by almost 50%.

Foreign military sales include some of the most advanced weapons and support systems in the U.S. inventory and represent a large percentage of new weapons and equipment. The chief customers have changed from primarily North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries to Middle East countries. There are indications, based on Department of Defense (DOD) assessments, that foreign deliveries have affected U.S. defense capabilities adversely. Problems affecting arms sales management include: (1) foreign sales agreements providing for future support which could magnify problems of production limitations and competing demands for key components; (2) over 45% of support requirements for spare and repair parts have not been forecasted; (3) management information systems for foreign military sales do not identify future support requirements for U.S. and foreign customers; and (4) inadequate consideration has been given to the cumulative effect of foreign military sales on weapon systems with common components.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should require: inclusion of detailed impact statements in the foreign military sales decisionmaking process; a supply support agreement or other mechanism to be a part of any sale when it is feasible, so that DOD can program and fund future support without adverse effects on U.S. defense capabilities; and development of a forecasting mechanism to identify the probable quantities of future critical support items for U.S. and foreign sales customers.

    Agency Affected:


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Mar 13, 2018

Feb 28, 2018

Feb 16, 2018

Feb 15, 2018

Feb 6, 2018

Jan 31, 2018

Jan 18, 2018

Jan 10, 2018

Looking for more? Browse all our products here