By Larry Shaughnessy
American arms exporters, in the midst of a defense spending slowdown here in the U.S., are enjoying an increase in overseas sales, according to a new State Department report.
The government authorized the sale of more than $44 billion in military and other U.S. technical hardware in fiscal year 2011, a jump of more than $10 billion over the year before, according to U.S. officials.
In order for a company to sell military hardware or sophisticated non-military hardware, like satellites, it must obtain a license for each sale from the State Department.
In fiscal year 2011, the State Department granted more than 83,000 licenses, the most ever.
As one might expect in uncertain times like these, sales to the Middle East are climbing. For example the value of items approved for sale to Jordan doubled from fiscal year 2010 to last year, and now total more than $120 million.
But there have been significant jumps in sales to other countries as well. Australia's purchases for 2011 were valued at $1.5 billion, again double what was approved for down under in 2010.
Other major customers include Japan, which bought $6.4 billion is arms, mostly warplanes and related equipment.
Afghanistan's orders are worth more than $3.5 billion, with much of that going to aircraft and electronic systems like radar.
Israel, long one of America's top weapons customers, bought nearly $1.5 billion in equipment, much of that spent on tanks, military vehicles and warplanes.
And Pakistan, which is currently in a bitter dispute with the U.S. over cargo access routes to Afghanistan, ordered $218 million in goods, about half of that in the form of aircraft, tanks and other military vehicles, but this report is for sales that pre-date the cross-border shooting that is at the heart of the current dispute.
"Countries want to buy the best. And to get the best they rightly turn to U.S. defense systems," U.S. officials said in an e-mail to CNN.
The State Department is required by law to tell Congress every year how many licenses it approves to each nation and the value of those sales.
Defense sales and transfers are thoroughly reviewed by the State Department to ensure any arms sale is in line with U.S. foreign policy.