June 28, 2016

United States Is the World’s Leader in International Arms Sales

Contact us
To speak with a scholar or learn more on this topic, visit our contact page.

This week’s charts look at global arms transfers using data produced by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The first chart shows that the United States was responsible for a third of total global arms exports from 2011 to 2015. The United States and Russia combined were responsible for 58.0 percent of all international arms sales over that same period.

Top Arms Exporters, 2011-2015

The second chart shows the top 10 foreign purchasers of US arms. The leading recipient was Saudi Arabia at 9.7 percent, followed closely by the United Arab Emirates at 9.1 percent of total US arms exports. According to SIPRI, “The USA delivered major weapons to at least 96 states in 2011–15, a significantly higher number of export destinations than any other supplier.”

Top Purchasers of US Arms, 2011-2015

The third chart shows the top 10 arms-producing and military services companies in the world as of 2014. Not surprisingly, the United States dominates with seven companies in the top ten. U.S. companies Lockheed Martin and Boeing came in first and second place, respectively. Indeed, only one non-American company makes the top six.

Top 10 Arms-Producing and Military Services Companies, 2014

Regardless of one’s view of the desirability of the United States and its companies dominating the global arms scene, the situation still calls to mind President Dwight Eisenhower’s prescient warning in his 1961 farewell address to the nation:

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.