Trump Administration - Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia
Please see the tracker for all foreign military sales (FMS) notifications.
December 29, 2020: Congress notified of potential sale of 3,000 small diameter bombs (GBU-39) for $290 million via the Foreign Military Sales program,
December 23, 2020: Bloomberg reports that the Trump administration has notified Congress of its intent to issue licenses for the sale of "7,500 precision-guided, air-to-ground munitions valued at $478 million to Saudi Arabia" via the Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) program. Note: the 30-day Congressional notification window would mean the licenses could not be issued until after the expected January 20, 2021 inauguration of Joe Biden.
December 1, 2020: Congress notified of the potential sale of support services to include technical assistance and advisory support to Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Defense (MOD) for an additional five years, through the U.S. Military Training Mission to Saudi Arabia (USMTM), valued at $350 million.
August 10, 2020: State Department Office of the Inspector General report released examining the 2019 emergency declaration, finding that the law had been followed “that the department did not fully assess risks and implement mitigation measures to reduce civilian casualties” as related to the precision guided munitions. It also but revealed that the States department approved transfers of weapons below the threshold for congressional notification, with an estimated $11.2 billion in approvals to Saudi Arabia and the UAE between January 2017 and late 2019.
July 29, 2019: An effort by the Senate to override President Trump's vetoes earned a majority but did not succeed in securing a 2/3 majority. Votes: SJRes 36 (45-40), SJRes 37 (45-39), SJRes38 (46-41).
July 24, 2019: President Trump vetoed the resolutions (36, 37, 38).
July 17, 2019: The House passed SJ Res 36, 37, and 38 (see list), related to precision-guided munitions and blocking the issuance of export licenses. (Note: SJ Res 37 relates to the United Arab Emirates, not Saudi Arabia.)
June 20, 2019: In a Senate, SJ Res 36 and SJ Res 38 each passed by a vote of 53-45 and the remaining 20 resolutions passed en bloc 51-45 (see list).
June 5, 2019: A bipartisan group of Senators announced they would introduce 22 resolutions (see list) to block President Trump's 22 emergency sales of arms to Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.
May 24, 2019: Secretary of State Pompeo claimed emergency authority to waive the 30-day notification period for numerous arms sales to Saudi Arabia, including more than $2.6 billion for aircraft support ($1.8 billion and $800 million), as well as $136 million for air surveillance support through the FMS process.
January 2019: In the first months of 2019. U.S. military involvement in support of Saudi Arabia and its allies in the war in Yemen continued to receive Congressional scrutiny, in part via War Powers Resolutions. Additional legislative steps were proposed to limit arms sales (see 2019 Congressional tracker, section on the Yemen civil war).
December 13, 2018: Senators voted in support of a War Powers resolution that would have blocked US direct military involvement in the Saudi-supported war in Yemen. See resource on SJ Res 54. (A similar effort in 2017 also occurred in the House. See resource.)
October 2018: In the wake of the murder of journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khassogi in October, President Trump refused to reconsider arms sales to Saudi Arabia, generating significant controversy.
June 28, 2018: Notification of a high value sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates was anticipated, but not made public, as Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, put a hold on the sale. (See 2019 "emergency" sales, in sidebar, for when this hold was overriden.) However, data compiled by the Security Assistance Monitor identified a number of Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) that were notified to Congress, including a $195 million sale in December to support Patriot air defense systems. Among the 2018 notifications, nearly $580 million in firearms sales were made, to which there is no indication that Congress has since attempted to block.
April 5, 2018: Congress was notified of potential sales of $1.31 billion for 177 self-propelled howitzers.
March 22, 2018: Congress was notified of potential sales of $630 million for 6600 TOW missiles, $300 million for repairs/spares for Abrams tanks and other land force equipment, and $106.8 million for helicopter maintenance.
January 18, 2018: Congress was notified of a potential sale of missile system support valued at $500 million.
October 6, 2017: Congress was notified of a potential sale of THAAD systems for $15 billion (for which a letter of offer and acceptance appeared to be signed in November 2018).
June 13, 2017: 47 Senators voted to block the sale, narrowly failing to win a majority (see below for archive of pre-vote opposition).
June 5, 2017: The Trump administration notified Congress of potential sales valued at $662 million for radars and related support.
June 2, 2017: The Trump administration notified Congress of potential sales valued at $750 million for Air Force training.
May 21, 2017: Trump addressed the Arab Islamic American Summit where he touted the deal and said, "We are not here to lecture—we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship." That and other statements were widely interpreted as indicating that human rights would not be a factor in arms sales and other dealings with Saudi Arabia.
May 20, 2017: Donald Trump announced the sale of $110 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia during his first stop on his first international trip as U.S. president (fact sheet and joint strategic vision). To date, it is difficult to determine what items and services would be new and which would be carryover from the Obama administration, as well as when sales would be notified to Congress for their review. Media analysis suggests that perhaps about $24 billion dates to the Obama era, with the provision of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system being the most identifiable new potential sale. (This unconfirmed spreadsheet appears to have the most detail.)
May 19, 2017: Congress was notified of a roughly $500 million potential sale of precision guided munitions.
Lame Duck Sales - December 2020
"Emergency" Sales - May-July 2019
Congressional Action 2019
Congress has proposed a number of measures that would limit or bar arms sales to Saudi Arabia. See section on "Yemen civil war".
War Powers Resolutions
116th Congress (2019-2020)
115th Congress (2017-2018)
Khasshogi Murder and Arms Sales (Oct. 2018)
Forum-listed experts commentary on not reconsidering arms sales to Saudi Arabia after journalist's murder.
Potential PGM Sales to Saudi/UAE (2018)
In June 2018, a hold was placed on controversial potential sales of precision-guided munitions (later moved forward in 2019 via "emergency" measures).,
Senate Vote on PGM Sale - 2017
Forum-listed experts commentary from June 13, 2017, and recap of the Senate vote on SJ Res. 42.
Forum-listed experts commentary from March 2017, and recap of opposition into late May 2017.
2016-2017 Global Resource on Arms to Saudi Arabia in light of Yemen crisis
Features resources on other 2017 US-Saudi arms notifications and also looks beyond just the United States, including comments by experts in February 2016.
Saudi-tank deal - 2016
Expert commentary on and description of Congressional opposition in August and September 2016 on $1.15 billion battle tank sale.
Major Arms Sales Notification Tracker
From our blog
Improved Prospects for U.S. Arms Sales Restraint? Look to Congress by Jeff Abramson - January 3, 2019
Will reckless, risky and wrong-headed UK support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen continue? by Anna Stavrianakis - December 14, 2018
In 2018, The Trump Administration Will Continue to Tout Job Impacts of Arms Exports by William Hartung - December 11, 2017
Trump's Military Only Strategy in Yemen by Kate Kizer - April 25, 2017
Trump on Arms Sales by Rachel Stohl and Shannon Dick - April 25, 2017
Donald Trump and The Death of Diplomacy by William D. Hartung - April 26, 2017
Court Action to Implement the Arms Trade Treaty by Roy Isbister - December 19, 2016
October 20, 2015 event
Crisis in Yemen: Humanitarian and Security Consequences of Military Support to the Region. See archive.