Pentagon’s New Year’s resolution? Speed up arms sales

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In the first year of Donald Trump’s presidential administration, the United States has been busy selling weapons to the rest of the world — “busier than ever” as one official put it over the summer, although while America reportedly surpassed its fiscal 2016 tally by several billion dollars in exporting nearly $42 billion of arms in fiscal 2017,  it actually sold a more valuable stockpile in one year as recently as fiscal 2015.

Not to be outdone, however, the Trump administration is reportedly taking steps “to make U.S. companies more competitive when allies are shopping for fighter jets, ground vehicles, warships, missile defenses and other military gear in an intensely competitive market,” according to Politico.

Deputy Secretary of Defense (and former Boeing executive) Patrick Shanahan, meanwhile, in late December reportedly “identified Japan, South Korea and the Middle East as three areas of focus” for speeding up U.S. arms exports.

Indeed, “thanks to a group of leaders with a personal focus on building up allied capabilities and an administration that sees weapon sales as a way to grow American jobs,” Defense News reports, beginning with Defense Secretary James Mattis, “who early on declared building up partner capabilities as one of his key objectives,” exporting American arms, and speeding up the process of doing so, will apparently be top Pentagon priorities in 2018.

While details of the plan are sparse, it reportedly includes “setting up some form of university structure.” This “will not be a new brick and mortar institution, rather it will leverage existing curriculum and schoolhouse offerings,” including facilities at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region, Lt. Gen. Charles Hooper, head of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, reportedly told Defense News.

The seemingly oddly-titled “university structure” for selling American-made weapons abroad is also reportedly meant to make use of “existing relationships with Defense Acquisition University, the Service professional military education institutions, and other civilian colleges and universities to maximize educational efficiencies.”

Whatever this “university structure” ends up looking like in practice, hopefully it includes a course on preventing blowback when distributing arms throughout the world — though if past experience provides any indication, profits to be made from selling off weaponry may prove more important to Pentagon policy-makers than making sure that making those profits doesn’t otherwise interfere with America’s national security that they’re charged with upholding.

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