The Pentagon Wants to Play Quick Draw with its Weapon Sales

(Photo Credit: Gregwest98/Flickr)
(Photo Credit: Gregwest98/Flickr)

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If the US wants to remain the top weapons exporter, it needs to remember the words of marketing pioneer John Wanamaker: Customer is king.

Along with efforts to cut red tape, the Pentagon aims to train more officers to help facilitate foreign military weapons sales — a key driver of influence throughout the world — The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. And if getting guns to people as quickly as possible isn’t American, then we don’t know what is.

Where are My Weapons, America?

By the late 1980s, right about the time Germans were tearing down the Berlin Wall, America was solidifying its spot as the supreme weapons dealer, selling munitions to everyone from Saudi Arabia to South Korea to Israel and more. It’s remained there ever since, accounting for about 40 percent of all arms exports each year, The Intercept reported. And despite that dominant position — last year the Pentagon managed 15,000 foreign military sales cases totaling $680 billion, according to the WSJ — the process can be a real slog for buyers, which include some of America’s closest allies.

Selling weapons is certainly one way for America to nourish international relationships, but sometimes those deals get held up for years by roadblocks, red tape, and multiple levels of approval. Maybe a country’s request was too vague, or the US wanted to make sure the foreign military can properly use the equipment it’s selling to them. This all results in setbacks that give countries time to think “Oh, forget it, we’ll just call up China or Russia for our missiles”:

  • One of the biggest moves to speed up the sales process is that the Pentagon plans to beef up the training for 1,400 military officers that manage these types of weapons deals at embassies around the world. However, even that plan could take a year to go into effect.
  • The Pentagon also wants to expand the capacity of the defense industrial base to more quickly place weapons in the hands of allied countries, according to documents seen by the WSJ.

“The building has to get agility,” Former Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer told the WSJ. “We are sclerotic, we are arthritic, we have to get over it.”

Can same-day delivery of F-15 fighter jets be far behind?

War in Ukraine: The US speeding up weapons sales is paramount as fighting continues to devastate Eastern Europe. This week, a report from the United Nations said that after a two-year hiatus, Russia is now once again providing North Korea with oil. The report suggested that in return for petroleum, North Korea is supplying weapons to Vladimir Putin’s war machine. Since the start of the war in 2022, the US has provided Ukraine with roughly $38 billion in military assistance.