Despite widespread unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, U.S. arms sales to foreign allies are expected, for the foreseeable future, to continue as planned, said a senior military official who oversees weapons exports.
"We are watching" closely events unfolding in various countries, said Rear Admiral Joseph W. Rixey, director of the Navy International Programs Office.
The Navy currently administers 4,500 military-to-military cooperative programs with 147 nations, also known as "foreign military sales." Last year, sales of Navy weapon systems--including training and logistics support--reached about $6.7 billion, Rixey said in an interview.
Items sold range from night-vision goggles to advanced jet fighters and ships.
Rixey, a career Navy pilot who flew P-3 antisubmarine aircraft, also is a weapons acquisition expert, and recently became director of the IPO. "It's an exciting job," he said. The Navy's top leadership places great value on foreign military sales as a vehicle of international cooperation. Global partnerships are a "significant priority of the chief of naval operations,' Rixey said. "He holds it in high regard."
It is too early to forecast whether and how the fast-moving events in the Middle East and Africa will affect future technology transfers, he said. "It's tough to predict, when you see what's going on in that region."
With foreign military sales come long-standing relationships with other militaries and civilian leaders. Whether today's friend may be tomorrow's enemy is the question that may prompt a reevaluation of U.S. arms sales, although that is not yet happening, Rixey said.
If a particular government "changes significantly," he said, the implications are broader than just sales. The Navy has to also worry about protecting U.S. citizens who may be servicing equipment in a given country. There are also foreign nationals who may be attending Navy schools or training at Navy ranges. Their situation also has to be considered, said Rixey. "We are looking at each area. ... We have to be keenly aware of what the implications are if a government-to-government relationship changes," he said. "We're watching this thing very closely."
The long-term outlook for military-to-military weapon sales, however, is bright, Rixey said. "I think the demand will be for more of what we're already providing." For the Navy, that means, most likely, more aircraft sales. There is growing interest in naval aircraft...