National security and warfare are big business. The U.S. government spent $598.5 billion, over half of its discretionary budget, on military and weapons technology in 2015. The 100 largest arms-producing and military services companies across the globe sold an estimated $370.7 billion worth of arms that year.
In its latest annual report, Top 100 Arms-Producing and Military Services Companies, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimated arms sales for companies around the world using financial documents and reports of sales to national ministries and departments of defense. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 20 companies with the largest arms sales in 2015.
U.S.-based companies continue to dominate the defense market, a trend that is unlikely to change meaningfully any time soon. Virginia-based Lockheed Martin’s arms sales totaled $36.44 billion in 2015, by far the most of any company. Booz Allen Hamilton rounds out the list of 20, with $3.9 billion in military-related sales that year. U.S.- and Western Europe-based companies account for 82.4% of arms sales by the 100 largest military procurement companies.
Aude Fleurant is programme director of the Arms and Military Expenditure Program at SIPRI. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., she explained that because U.S.-based arms manufacturers are so numerous and account for such a large share of global defense spending, “what is happening in the U.S. will influence the [military procurement] trends as a whole, as a general rule.”
Because these companies — in many cases even foreign arms makers — sell primarily to the U.S. Department of Defense, sales patterns are closely linked to budgetary decisions in the U.S. The 2011 Budget Control Act, for example, resulted in a dip in global military spending.
According to Fleurant, shifting budget priorities, which often change dramatically after an election or economic event, add a level of uncertainty that is especially challenging for the defense industry. Not only are fighter jets, submarines, and highly destructive weapons available only to governments and armed forces, but also these defense products often require decades to design, assemble, and test.
The great length of procurement cycles, scale of product capabilities, limited access to defense markets, as well as the risk of sudden budgetary changes mean defense companies are under enormous pressure to find deals among the already very limited pool of customers. According to Fleurant, the level of uncertainty and these pressures are currently higher than usual. She highlighted relatively small export markets as major targets of companies looking to make up lower revenues.
According to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, developing nations continue to be the main focus of arms sales. Countries without large arms industries rely heavily on exports from powerful nations, primarily the United States and Russia. From 2011 to 2014, the United States and Russia dominated the arms market in the developing world. Over that period, the United States made nearly $115 billion in such agreements, nearly half of the total value of military deals. Agreements with Russia totalled $41.7 billion.
To identify the companies profiting the most from war, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data provided by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in its annual SIPRI Top 100, a review of the the largest arms-producing and military services companies by arms sales. Due to a lack of sufficient data, SIPRI excluded Chinese companies from the report. Employment data, profit figures, and arms sales as a percentage of total sales also came from the SIPRI report and are for the 2015 calendar year. Other company-specific data were obtained from annual financial reports.
These are the 20 companies profiting from war.