The Trump Effect: TRENDS IN MAJOR U.S. ARMS SALES 2019

A new report from the Center for International Policy’s Security Assistance Monitor found that the Trump administration made at least $85.1 billion arms sales offers in 2019, the highest level since it took office in 2017. Because of a lack of full transparency on the value of Direct Commercial Sales licensed by the State Department, the $85.1 billion figure is a conservative estimate.  Over the first three years of the Trump administration, the U.S. made arms offers worth over $240 billion – nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars.

The Trump administration continues to aggressively promote arms sales based on their supposed economic benefits, to the detriment of security and human rights concerns,” said William D. Hartung, a coauthor of the new report, The Trump Effect: Trends in Major Arms Sales 2019. “The most obvious example has been the administration’s dogged determination to continue sending arms to Saudi Arabia despite its brutal war in Yemen, which has killed thousands of civilians in air strikes using U.S.-supplied bombs.”

Elias Yousif, another report coauthor, noted the need for more public information on U.S. arms sales, asserting that “without comprehensive data on all channels of U.S. arms transfers, neither Congress nor the public can make informed decisions about the wisdom of specific sales.  Greater transparency is urgently needed.”

Major findings of the report include:

  • Contrary to President Trump’s claims that arms sales are a major creator of jobs in the United States, less than one-tenth of one percent of the U.S. labor force is employed producing weapons for export; and jobs related to sales to Saudi Arabia range from 20,000 to 40,000, less than one-tenth the amount claimed by the president. In addition, 10% of U.S. arms offers for 2019 involved licenses for the production of U.S. weapons overseas, further undercutting job creation in the United States.
  • East Asia and the Pacific had the largest share of U.S. arms deals by value in 2019, at 39%, more than double its share in 2018. The Middle East accounted for 36.7% of U.S. arms offers, followed by Europe at 17%.
  • Exports of U.S. firearms to repressive regimes in the Philippines and Brazil were cause for concern, even as the Trump administration has moved to reduce controls on the export of pistols, sniper rifles, and AR-15s, making it easier for them to end up in the hands of terrorists, tyrants and criminal gangs.
  • The top three exporting firms – Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon – were involved in over $59 billion worth of arms deals in 2019, over two-thirds of total offers by the Trump administration.


Congress has taken an unprecedented interest in U.S. arms sales in recent years, particularly with respect to Saudi Arabia; but its efforts to block military support and weapons transfers to the regime have been vetoed by President Trump. The report makes a series of recommendations to strengthen Congress’s hand and provide greater public accountability over arms sales decisions:

  • Stop all U.S. arms from going to countries engaged in genocide, violation of the laws of war, or severe internal repression, as called for in Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Stop Arming Human Rights Abusers Act.
  • Require Congressional approval of major arms sales, rather than assuming sales will go forward unless Congress votes them down by a veto-proof majority.
  • Make it easier for Congress to be notified and act in advance of deliveries of weapons, not just initial offers.
  • Improve reporting on commercial arms sales offers, including exact figures on the value of each deal and easier public access to the information.
  • Restore notifications to Congress on firearms deals of $1 million or more.


You can browse and download the full report below